Christmas trees from Norway around the world

In New York, Washington, London, Newcastle, Berlin and more Christmas trees from Norway are lit to celebrate the beginning of advent. In some cities Festival of Trees are organised around the decoration and display of multiple trees as charity events. In these cases the trees represent special commemorative gifts. The tradition has various backgrounds and reasons and some quite old. Let’s start with Norway in itself:

CristmasTreeNorwayLighting the Christmas tree the first Sunday in Advent in the local community has a long tradition in Norway. We are going into the darkest period of the year (5 hours of daylight) and need something delightful to look forward to you know :-)

Actually these celebrations are from thousands of years ago: To celebrate their belief in the powers of the Gods, the Norsemen (Vikings) held festivals. The father of the Gods was Odin or Thor, commonly called the Yule Father (Yule referred to the sun).

But back to modern times, Advent and Christmas trees: Above is a picture (click to bigify and enjoy), from our community where the local marching band (with “Nisseluer” = Santa clause hats) playing while parents and siblings are dancing around the tree.

So to share this tradition and to strengthen the friendship bonds, Norway sends Christmas trees all around the world. Here are some of the places:

UK – London and Newcastle:
At Trafalgar Square, the Christmas tree is perhaps the most important symbol of Britain and Norway’s warm relationship. The first tree was brought over in 1947 as a token of Norwegian appreciation of British friendship during the Second World War. When Norway was invaded by German forces in 1940, King Haakon VII escaped to Britain and a Norwegian exile government was set up in London. To most Norwegians, London came to represent the spirit of freedom during those difficult years. From London, the latest war news was broadcast in Norwegian, along with a message and information network which became vital to the resistance movement and which gave the people in Norway inspiration and hope of liberation.

In Newcastle upon Tyne, where the 15 m tall main civic Christmas tree is an annual gift from the city of Bergen, Norway, in thanks for the part played by soldiers from Newcastle in liberating Bergen from Nazi occupation.

US – New York and Washington:
The Tree at Rockefeller Center in New York is an annual Christmas tree erected and lit in early December or late-November, and has been broadcast on NBC in recent years. The tree, usually a Norway spruce 75 to 90 feet (23 to 27 m) tall, has been put up every year since 1931. The tradition began during the Depression-era construction of Rockefeller Center, when workers decorated a small balsam fir tree with “strings of cranberries, garlands of paper, and even a few tin cans”, as recounted by Daniel Okrent in his history of Rockefeller Center.

Norway also annually gifts a Christmas tree to Washington D.C. as a symbol of friendship between Norway and the US and as an expression of gratitude from Norway for the help received from the US during World War II.

Germany – Berlin:
Last Sunday Norwegian Christmas trees where lit at the Pariser Platz at the Brandenburg Gate. This year, the two foreign ministers Jonas Gahr Støre, Guido Westerwelle and the Governing Mayor of Berlin Klaus Wowereit and the mayor of Frogn, Thore Vestby from Norway (where the tree came from) lit the lights of the fir tree and held speeches to mark the 20th anniversary of the event. It’s said that the German foreign minister, Westerwelle even surprised the audience even with a few sentences in Norwegian.

Do you have a Festival of Trees tradition in your local area, or maybe you’ve seen or heard about lightening a Christmas tree from Norway? If so, we would love to hear about it in your comments to this post.

38 Comments

  1. My dear Friend,
    this year we must avoid X_Mas tree in our home – for the first time ever. (see my blog).
    It’s curious to find out the history behind this tradition – a living tree brought inside for X-Mas. hmmm.

    We meet on Wednesday. The Kittens are well and – mieoow. We hear them.

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  3. How come we don’t get one! Please, mail us a nice tall tree for Parliament Hill! :lol:

    I have always associated Norway to Christmas, and now I know the story of the tradition.

  4. Usually we put our tree up on December 1st. I used to always get a Scotch Pine tree, but it turns out I am allergic to them, so now we have an artificial tree.
    This year, the tree will not go up until the 21st because we are going away on our cruise and I don’t want to tempt fate and put the tree up for our house sitter to deal with.

  5. What a great history lesson. Some of this I knew, but some I didn’t.

    Have a terrific day. Big hug to you and Diane. :)

  6. Wow!!It is really a great story on Christmas trees .I always plant out my Christmas trees but over time they grow to be enormous… at the top of a xmas tree (pine, fir spruce) but…overall growth of the tree.

  7. I love the christmas tree in Trafalgar Square. I had no idea that it went back as far as 1947

  8. I will have my first Christmas tree as an adult (always lived in dorm rooms or extremely small apartments) this year! I am very excited, though I don’t know if Sverre is going to go all-man and pick a tree from the woods behind us, or if we’ll end up hustling into town right before Christmas to pick one out at the Kiwi. LOL. Anyway, whatever we end up doing, it will be a lot of fun! Thanks for the info, as always Renny, and I will be linking this post to my blog soon.

  9. Thanks for that informative post and on behalf of the people of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (my home), England may I thank you for sending us our wonderful trees.

  10. Wow, this is great info and I never knew this until now. We were supposed to see the big Christmas Tree in Rockefeller this year but had to cancel due to lack of leave credits ;) Anyway, I hope by next year we will be able to see that one.

    Hugs to all and warmest regards to Diane…

    It’s My Party
    Handmade with LOVE

  11. How interesting and wonderful to learn about the Norwegian Xmas trees!!

    We will be spending Xmas at home with 2 more family members, which is precious since our extended families live so far away. And we will have a small (artificial) Xmas tree, but it’s the meaning what counts, doesn’t it??
    :)

  12. Hey Renny, hope u have fun this Christmas. I was hoping to see some pics but maybe it’s just my poor slow connection and I can’t see any here. Anyway, happy shopping and share ur tree with us later! :)

  13. You posted an Interesting story about the Christmas tree. Here the tradition in Atlanta is to light the “big” Christmas tree on top of Macy’s on Thanksgiving Day. First there are song, carols, dances, etc which are televised. When we bought our house we planted our first Christmas tree, a cedar tree. Now this tree is more than 25 ft tall and shows how many years we have been in this house.

  14. This is such a lovely tradition. I remember seeing the Christmas tree lighted in Rockefeller Center by the Crown Prince of Norway one year before I moved here. I also remember the many times we watched Kyle play the advent concert when lighting the tree in Eiksmarka! Good memories!

  15. Of course as usual we have a similar tradition, but not as much spread as yours nowadays I think. Our traditions seem to begin to fade a bit over here.

    We do put up the xmas trees and light them up in public places in time for advent, but in the homes it’s not until much closer to xmas.

    It was fun to talk to you in the phone. I’m sorry we couldn’t be there with you, but lets hope all the fuss around us will calm down and I’ll be better so we’ll meet soon enough again :-)

    Hugz to you both from us both!

  16. Hello my friend,
    I’m really happy you write about the X-Mas tree traditions here in Norway.
    As you know, we bring into our homes real trees, and feel the smell of the wood, besides whatever we decorate the tree with. Just after WW2 all the decorations were of course homemade.
    And the tradition of local community large outdoor X-Mas trees is really still allive here in Oslo

    We can all see from your photo what this tradtions means here in Norway.
    Thanks for sharing this, and not to forget the background given

  17. A very well-timed post – in the Christmas spirit.

    BTW, one reason for the special relationship (and the tree) between Bergen and Newcastle is of course transport. Over 100 years of boat and ferry between the two cities. Until last year when it was stopped by the Danish company running it the last couple of years. “Uneconomical…”

  18. The first known decorated Christmas Tree was at Riga in Latvia, in 1510. Martin Luther decorated a small Christmas Tree in 1535 with candles for his children, to show them how the stars twinkle through the night.harry.

  19. I love the Trafalgar Square tree, it really is a wonderful gift.
    Check out this monstrosity that a town near me thought would be a good idea to stop vandalism.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article6934109.ece

    Needless to say it has been damaged already – not sure if it was the high winds or vandals. Either way it is no great loss!

    There is something of interest to you too over at my blog, Renny! :-)

  20. We don’t have such tradition but it is great reading this here :D

  21. I had no idea…(I knew about the ones in the US) but very cool… I wonder why we can never get any big trees in our area…its cause they sent them overseas…lol

  22. I learn still a beautiful Xmas story about trees, tradition and Norway. In Ollioules all the pupils will decorate the pine trees in the center of the town and the mayor will offer at the beginning of the new year a hot chocolate to them and hot wine for adults after that a big retribution for each school: like a computer or TV … we can use with them. a dream: to see Trafalgar Square X-Mas tree!

  23. I didn’t know most of that! Thanks for sharing. Here in NZ, I don’t know of any Christmas traditions except surfing! But some places have terrific light displays to enjoy at night.

  24. What a lovely post! The Trafalgar Square tree is always beautiful (and I get to see it on my way to work!)

  25. was at the london lighting of the tree thurs night, it was grand… they played the norwegian national anthem!

  26. I just love your site, I always learn so much about history. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Love and Blessings,
    AngelBaby

  27. Thanks for this Renny. I am researching for a Christmas blog I am doing so this is really timely :-) Have sent you an email too – hope I have your current address. Any idea when Christmas trees were first cut and used indoors in Norway? Germany was supposed to be the first place but considering your long history of lighting the tree I wondered if Norway may actually be first.

    RennyBA:
    Thanks for your note – I have reply.
    The first time we hear about decorating a Christmas tree in Norway, was in 1822. The first time ever, was in Germany in the 1500s.

  28. Bit late with this but my home town gets a tree from Norway every year too!

  29. The fir tree has a long association with Christianity, it began in Germany almost 1,000 years ago when St Boniface, who converted the German people to Christianity, was said to have come across a group of pagans worshipping an oak tree.

  30. I’ve not seen xmas tree species make a good hedge. Take a look at where the power company has trimmed trees to keep them from growing into their lines, you’ll see what I mean.

  31. I’ve not seen xmas tree species make a good hedge. Take a look at where the power company has trimmed trees to keep them from growing into their lines, you’ll see what I mean.

  32. I think that it’s just nice to have that pine smell in the house. I associate the smell of pine trees with a happy time of the year because I love Christmas time.

  33. I recently saw the tree from Norway in DC. It’s in Union Station and quite impressive – I of course didn’t have my camera on my :/ but had I, would have posted on my site. It was magnificent.

  34. In Lohar Chawl near Abdul Rehman St you will get whatever you want. Also try Crawford Market. But you will definitely get it in Lohar Chawl

  35. thank you for history lesson

  36. been keeping my eye on your blog for a few days now and i really am enjoying reading them. are there any ways to subscribe to your blog

  37. Good day! I just want to give an enormous thumbs up for the good info you have got right here on this post. I might be coming back to your weblog for extra soon.

  38. Just stopped by from BPOTW. Very interesting history lesson on the Christmas Tree. I love the smell of a live Christmas tree in the house. I’m reading a book now about a family living in Finland and the short number of daylight hours.

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