With its 500 white lights and central location the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree is one of the most iconic Yuletide symbols for the festive season. Since 1947 the giant Norway spruce has been given annually as a gift from the Norwegian government to thank the British nation for their role in providing a safe haven for King Haakon VII and their government in exile, as well as the small matter of eradicating the Nazis from their country.
[W]hat few realise is the inordinate care that the Norwegians take to grow the ‘perfect’ tree. It takes 15 years for your Christmas tree to grow to 6ft to display in your home. For Trafalgar Square’s tree 120 years are needed to reach the optimal height.
A group of eight to ten possible trees are selected from forests outside Oslo. These then undergo special preparation for up to eight years. The surrounding trees are cut down so the chosen ones get enough light. The trees are fertilised to help establish the dark green colour and trimmed to the correct shape.
Then finally, when a tree is to be shipped, the best is selected. For the past decade this we vision has been made by Jon Christiansen, he perfect name for Christmas and the chief city forester for Oslo City Council. The selected tree between 70ft and 75ft is then named ‘The Queen of the Forest’.
During the felling Oslo’s mayor, the Mayor of Westminster Council, the British Ambassador to Norway and local schoolchildren are in attendance.
Carefully moving such a heavy and delicate object is undertaken by truck to Oslo, thence by DFDS Seaways, a Danish freight line and finally by low loader from the embarkation port to Trafalgar Square. Unloaded and positioned by hydraulic crane, then secured by guy ropes it stands erect outside the National Gallery.
On 3rd December each year the honour of turning on the lights is usually given to a member of the Norwegian Royal Family.
Photo: Trafalgar Square – Christmas Eve 2011 Peter Trimming (CC BY 2.0)