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Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree
Each year, Trafalgar Square in London is home to what is arguably the most famous Christmas tree in the world. During late-November, a magnificent Norwegian spruce, usually in excess of 20 metres high, is erected within Trafalgar Square, in anticipation of the festive season.
Trafalgar Square itself is a wonderfully historic location, officially named in 1830 but having been an important space for centuries before. It is surrounded by museums, art galleries and many other cultural sites, and within the square are a number of monuments - most notably Nelson’s Column, which was erected in 1843 to commemorate Admiral Nelson’s role in the victory of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
The story behind the tree is also one of historic importance befitting its location in Trafalgar Square. Beneath the tree is a plaque which bears the words which tell a simple, yet significant tale:
“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.
A tree has been given annually since 1947.”
This refers to the support and friendship that was extended by Britain to Norway during the Second World War. The importance of the tree to both countries is evident: the tree, which is typically 50-60 years old, is selected far in advance of the date for felling, and is referred to as “The Queen of the Forest” by those who are responsible for its welfare. When the tree is cut down ready for transportation, this is done so in the presence of, and with participation from, councillors or mayors from both cities.
While the tree arrives in the Square in late-November, the big switch on takes place early in December, with a simple, yet highly effective decoration of strings of hundreds of white lights adorning the magnificent spruce. Some days later a traditional Blessing of the Crib takes place, performed by the clergy from St Martin-in-the-Fields, and Christmas carols are then sung around the tree in the run up to Christmas.
While Trafalgar Square is frequently the scene of demonstrations, rallies and gatherings - a democratic tradition that is encouraged and welcomed within the Square - the Christmas tree brings a far more community-spirited feel to the area. The carols are sung by groups who raise money for charities or voluntary organisations. The tree itself even manages to give back. Remaining in place, as is tradition, until the Twelfth Night, once the tree is taken down it is recycled for mulch.
So, for anyone who happens to be visiting London or the surrounding area at Christmas time, it is well-worth making the trip to Trafalgar Square to get into the festive spirit, sing some carols and see this wonderful sight.
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