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 2nd at 7pm CET.
The tree has been met with a slightly lukewarm reception on social media this year due to its sparse branches and less than healthy-looking appearance.
The Trafalgar Square tree has arrived. pic.twitter.com/3X4w6YazbP
— dan barker (@danbarker) November 30, 2021
A social media account for the tree, run by Westminster City Council, explained in jest that the branches of the tree weren’t missing and “social distancing” instead.
The tradition of Norway gifting the UK a tree goes back over 74 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.
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. At the base of the tree, 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.”
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.