Many people know that Norway presents the people of 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 – 19 November
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. This year, as a symbolic thank-you, the mayor of Grimsby handed over a game of Monopoly.
Edinburgh – 22 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 22 November between 2.00 and 5.00pm in the presence of Mr. Donald Wilson, Lord Provost of Edinburgh and Mr. Pål Kårbø, Deputy Convener of Hordaland County Council. There will be music on the main stage by Trio Vibrazzo from Hordaland Norway. For further details, please see www.edinburghschristmas.com
Aberdeen – 26 November
Aberdeen receives its Christmas tree from its twin city Stavanger and there will be a ceremony to light the tree on 26th November at 7pm – see event here. The Deputy Mayor of Stavanger will attend and light the tree with the Lord Provost of Aberdeen. This is always a highlight of the Christmas celebrations here and a symbol of the close ties across the North Sea between Aberdeen and Stavanger, and between Scotland and Norway generally.
Shetland – 28 November
The tree will form the centrepiece of this year’s Winter Festival, which will start on 28th November, with Santa arriving by lifeboat at 3.30pm that day.
Newcastle – 3 December
Newcastle receives a Christmas Tree from Bergen every year; a tradition which started the year after the Oslo tree. This year’s ceremony is at 17.30 on Thursday 3 December. The tree will be formally handed over to Newcastle by the new Ordfører of Bergen, Marte Mjøs Persen.
London – 3-4 December
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.
Orkney Islands – 5 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. The tree is traditionally displayed outside St Magnus Cathedral, with the lights scheduled to be switched on Saturday 5 December.
After 49 years of donating a tree to the city of Sunderland, the Norwegian municipality of Stavanger marked the 50th anniversary of the relationship in 2012 by planting a live tree in the city centre, now growing beside the site of the city’s stand-in cut Christmas tree, and slated to take over festive duties as soon as it’s tall enough. Until that time, Stavanger will, of course, formally pass on its good wishes to Sunderland during the lighting ceremony.
May our tradition of friendship long continue. As Norway has said to the UK every year since 1947: Merry Christmas!
Illustration by Lucy Vigrass