A Moment in London’s History – The first Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree…

The Trafalgar Square tree in 2019. PICTURE: SHansche/iStockphoto.
The 1947 Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square. PICTURE: Open Government Licence/National Archives.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree.

The native spruce has been a gift from the people of the city of Oslo – the capital of Norway – to the people of Britain since 1947, presented as a thank you for the support given Norway during World War II.

Special permission had to be given for the 40 foot high tree to be illuminated. The Ministry of Fuel decided to do so on the basis that “the lighting will not be for business purposes: the tree is classed as ‘a charitable gift’ – a goodwill gift to cheer London.”

A sizeable crowd gathered to witness the lights being turned on.

Among the official party was the Ambassador of Norway. He told the crowd that the tradition of a Norwegian Christmas Tree in London started when King Haakon VII was residing in London during World War II.

The ambassador said that each year during the king’s residency, the Norwegian Navy undertook an operation to bring a tree from Norway for the King so he could celebrate Christmas “looking on a Christmas tree grown on Norwegian soil”.

In 2016, UCL academic Ingrid A Medby described the annual presenting of the tree as a “diplomatic gesture”, “a token of gratitude” and a “symbol of geopolitical ties”.

This year’s 21 metre-high tree had its 500 lights illuminated on 1st December (the tree is traditionally lit on the first Thursday in December), It had been chopped down on 19th November in the Nordmarka forests near Oslo and travelled 1,000 miles by land and sea to reach Trafalgar Square.

Treasures of London – The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree…

A fixture of London’s Christmas festivities since 1947, the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree is given annually to the people of Britain by the city of Oslo as gift thanking them for their support of Norway during World War II.

christmas-treeThis included hosting the Norwegian Government-in-exile and the Royal Family during the Nazi occupation of the country between 1940 and 1945.

The tree is harvested from forests near the Norwegian capital and the selection process for the giant, known by forestry workers as the “Queen of the Forest”, starts in May.

The tree is typically a Norway spruce aged somewhere between 50 and 60 years and stands at least 20 metres high. This year’s tree – the 70th – is said to be 116-years-old, stands 22 metres tall and weighs

In keeping with tradition, it was cut down on 16th November in a special ceremony attended by the Mayor of Oslo, Marianne Borgen, and the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cr Steve Summers, along with various local school children so it can shipped to Britain ready in time for its unveiling at the start of December.

The tree is adorned with lights – in more recent years these are energy efficient light bulbs – in Norwegian style and these are turned on at a special ceremony on the first Thursday in December. The tree remains on display until just before the Twelfth Night of Christmas when it is taken down and recycled as mulch.

The tree now has its own Twitter account.