Why does Norway gift the UK a Christmas tree every year? 

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Why does Norway gift the UK a Christmas tree every year? 
The lights on the Christmas tree twinkle after the lights were switched on during the traditional ceremony in Trafalgar Square in London, on December 5, 2019. - The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is the city of Oslo's traditional Christmas gift to the City of Westminster as a token of thanks for British support during the years of occupation. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

Every year since 1947, the people of Norway have gifted the UK a Christmas tree to be displayed in Trafalgar Square during the festive period. 


One of the first things you'll notice if you are near or around Trafalgar Square in London at Christmas is a 20-meter-high Christmas tree on display for everyone to enjoy. 

The tree is displayed every year and is a gift from Norway to the UK. The lights are normally switched on at the beginning of December to mark the countdown to Christmas. This year the tree will be lit up on Thursday, December 1st at 7pm CET / 6pm GMT. 

'Half a tree' 

For social media users, it is becoming an annual tradition in itself to poke fun at the appearance of the tree.

Over the past few years, many have noted that the tree perhaps doesn't quite fit how many would picture a typical Norwegian Christmas tree.

The appearance of the tree (before it has had time to settle and be decorated) has led to many joking that it looked like only half a tree had been sent, that it had been flown over with a budget airline, or that Norway is perhaps bearing a grudge against the UK.

Norwegian broadcaster TV 2 reports that the tree had a far from ideal journey this year. Footage shared by the broadcaster show the tree scraping along the top of a tunnel and against road barriers while being hauled by a lorry. This year the UK Embassy in Norway tweeted a (tongue-in-cheek) disclaimer that the tree had left Oslo in pristine condition.

However, not everyone on social media was so quick to judge the state of the tree. Many point out that the tree is given as a symbol of gratitude and cooperation from Norway to the UK. Councillor Tim Roca, from Westminster Council, was quick to defend the intentions behind the tree. You can see him defend the tree in a tweet below. 

'A token of Norwegian gratitude'

The tradition of Norway gifting the UK a tree every Christmas goes back over 75 years to a couple of years after the Second World War. 

The yearly event see's the people of Norway gift the UK a roughly 20-metre tall Norwegian Spruce, often selected months or sometimes years in advance, as a sign of their gratitude for Britain's support for Norway during World War Two. 

READ ALSO: What you should know if you’re invited to a Norwegian ‘julebord'

The tree, typically 50-60 years old when ready to be cut down, is felled during a ceremony attended by the British Ambassador to Norway, the Mayor of Oslo and Lord Mayor of Westminster during November.


When erected in London, there is a plaque that reads, "This tree is given by the City of Oslo as a token of Norwegian gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during the years 1940-45." 

Below you can see pictures from this year's felling ceremony. 


It is then brought to the UK by sea, before making its way to London by lorry. The tree is then adorned with typical Norwegian decorative lights before being displayed to the public until the 12th day of Christmas. 

While the annual tradition dates back seven decades, the first Christmas tree was actually gifted to the UK in 1942. 

During a raid on Hisøy Island between Bergen and Haugesund, west Norway, resistance fighter Mons Urangsvåg cut down a Norwegian pine and shipped it back to England as a gift for the exiled King Haakon. 

King Haakon decided to pass the gift onto the UK, and so it was erected in Trafalgar Square, although with no lights due to the blackouts caused by the Blitz. 


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