Many people know that Norway presents the people of the UK with a Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square every year, but few are aware London isn’t the only British city that receives one. For decades, various Norwegian principalities have donated trees all over the UK, as symbols of the close and enduring relationship between Norway and Britain.
During the Second World War, King Haakon VII escaped to England as the Germans invaded Norway in 1940. The government headquarters was set up in London where the war news was broadcasted in Norwegian, along with messages and information that was vital to the resistance movement in Norway. The Norwegian Christmas trees are in many ways symbols of Norwegian gratitude towards the United Kingdom for preserving the country’s liberty.
Here’s a run down of the cities boasting Norwegian spruces this year, and the dates of their lighting ceremonies – see whether there’s one near you…
Grimsby – 24 November
Grimsby town centre
Every year, a spruce from the council and residents of Sortland in Northern Norway arrives in the port town of Grimsby from across the North Sea. The start of Grimsby’s late-night shopping season is marked by the illumination of the town’s Christmas lights – and of course, those of the glittering tree. The tree, which spans around 40ft, has been transported more than 3,500km on the Holmfoss vessel from Sortland, in Norway, to Grimsby for the 12th year running.
Edinburgh – 20 November
The Royal Norwegian Consulate General is, on behalf of Hordaland County Council, very pleased to announce the arrival of the traditional Christmas Tree, gifted to the City of Edinburgh. The Lighting Ceremony will take place on the Main Stage in George Street on Sunday 20 November between 2 and 5pm. For further details, please see here.
St. Giles Cathedral
Monday 21 November, 7pm
This year Schola Cantorum of Edinburgh will be accompanied by vocalist Reidun Horvei and pianist Inger-Kristine Riber from Hordaland, Norway.
Aberdeen – 24 November
Thursday 24 November, 7pm
Aberdeen receives its Christmas tree from its twin city Stavanger and there will be a ceremony to light the tree on 24 November at 7pm. A short carol service will be held at the Castlegate prior to the switch-on, which will be performed by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen George Adam and the Deputy Mayor of Stavanger Bjørg Tysdal Moe. She will be accompanied by Stavanger singer and songwriter Hanne Vasshus. This is always a highlight of the Christmas celebrations in Aberdeen and a symbol of the close ties across the North Sea between Aberdeen and Stavanger, and between Scotland and Norway generally.
Newcastle – 1 December
Newcastle Civic Centre
Thursday 1 December, 5.30pm
Newcastle receives a Christmas Tree from Bergen every year; this year’s tree is the number 68th in the line, and is given from Bergen Mayor Trude Mjøs Pedersen.
London – 1&2 December
Christmas tree Lighting Ceremony – Oslo tree
Thursday 1 December, 6pm
The lighting-up ceremony of the famous Norwegian Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, gifted from the people of Norway since 1947 as a token of Norwegian’s gratitude for Britain’s support during World War II, has come to signify the beginning of the Christmas season in the heart of the British capital. The lights of the magnificent spruce are switched on the 3 of December, and takes us one step closer to Christmas.
Friday 2 December, 7.30pm
St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square
Royal Norwegian Annual Christmas Concert
Orkney Islands – 3&4 December
St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall
Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony – Hordaland tree
Sunday 3 December
As one of the most historic sites of Norse influence in the UK, Orkney, receives a Christmas tree as a gift from Hordaland County. After the lighting there will be a family concert starting at 5.30pm.
St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall
Christmas Tree Lightning Ceremony – Grimstad tree
December 4, 11.15am
The tree gifted Fjaere Historical Society in Grimstad will be lit at the morning service at the Cathedral by Grimstad’s mayor, Kjetil Glimsdal during the Sunday service in the Cathedral. There will be a concert by the visiting Hordaland musicians and the Mayfield Singers in St Magnus Cathedral at 1930 on Sunday evening.
More information here.
May our tradition of friendship long continue. As Norway has said to the UK every year since 1947: Merry Christmas!
Illustration by Lucy Vigrass