Trees: The Magic Number

at various places in the UK

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.


Here’s a run down of six of the cities boasting Norwegian spruces this year, and the dates of their lighting ceremonies – see whether there’s one near you…

Grimsby – 13 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 in mid-November is marked by the illumination of the town’s Christmas lights – and of course, those of the glittering tree.

Newcastle – 4 December

For the 66th year running, the municipality of Bergen has sent a Christmas tree to be set up in Newcastle city centre. The lighting ceremony is held on 4 December, and this year the Mayor of Bergen herself, Trude Drevland, comes to switch on the hundreds of Christmas tree lights and kickstart the festive season.

Edinburgh – 23 November

The traditional Christmas tree, presented to the City of Edinburgh by Hordaland County Council, will be lit in a ceremony staged on George Street on Sunday 23 November between 2pm and 5pm. Presided over by Donald Wilson, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, and Tom Christer Nilsen, Convener of Hordaland county council, the event will also feature carol-singing from the Edgvard Grieg Choir, travelling over from Hordaland for the festivities.


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.

Aberdeen – 27 November

Aberdeen’s twin city, Stavanger, once again presents it with a Norwegian Christmas tree as a symbol of their close cultural connections and shared goodwill. Deputy Mayor of Stavanger, Bjørg Tysdal Moe, turns on the Christmas lights in a carol-accompanied ceremony at 7pm on Thursday 27 November in the city’s historic Castlegate.

Orkney Islands – 6–7 December

As one of the most historic sites of Norse influence in the UK, Orkney, uniquely, receives not one, but two Christmas trees. One is a gift from Hordaland County, twinned with the Orkney Islands, and is displayed outside St Magnus Cathedral. Hordaland Councillor Mona Hellesnes switches on the lights on Saturday 6 December. On 7 December, a representative of the municipality of Grimstad and the Fjaerekirke, the donors of Orkney’s second tree, turn on the lights on the following day, giving Orcadians two bites of the festive cherry…

London – 4-5 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 4 of December, and takes us one step closer to Christmas. Read more 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

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