For many Londoners, the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree lighting ceremony, along with carol singing, marks the start of the countdown to Christmas. The ceremony typically takes place on the first Thursday in December and is led by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, accompanied by a band and choir, followed by the switching on of the Christmas lights.
2018 Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.
The City of Oslo has sent a tree to London every year since 1947 as a token of gratitude, celebration, and commemoration of Britain’s support during the Second World War when the Norwegian government and royal family lived in exile in London. The annual gift of a Christmas tree has come to symbolise the deep and long-lasting friendship between Norway and the United Kingdom.
The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is typically a 50-60-year-old Norway spruce, generally over 20 metres tall. “The Queen of the Forest,” as she is affectionately known by the forestry workers, who groom a number of spruce trees over a period of years, was selected from a shortlist of particularly fine trees. Each year in November, the Mayor of Oslo invites the Lord Mayor of Westminster and the British Ambassador to a tree-felling ceremony in Oslo’s certified sustainable forest at Skullerud. After the tree is cut, it is shipped to Britain by sea.
The Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is typically decorated in a traditional Norwegian style and adorned with energy-efficient lights. At the base of the tree stands a plaque bearing the words: “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.”
For more information on this year’s virtual festivities, visit the Greater London Authority website. The tree remains until just before Twelfth Night when it is taken down for recycling.
2018 Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree and carol singers. Photo Credit: © Ursula Petula Barzey.