Crib Blessing

The story of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree

25 November 2016

This year’s tree was felled on 15 November. It’s a Norwegian spruce, or Picea abies. A species of tree that’s native to northern, central and eastern Europe. It stands 25 metres high and is around 50-60 years old. The tree’s trunk diameter can be anywhere from around 250– 500mm and can have a spread of around nine metres. It’s hefty too, weighing anything from 1,000kg to 10,000kg

The tree is chosen from the forests around Oslo with great care several months, sometimes even years, in advance. The Norwegian foresters who look after it describe it fondly as 'the queen of the forest'. It’s brought to the UK by sea courtesy of DFDS ferries. Once the tree is cleared through customs and the Forestry Commission it travels by lorry to Trafalgar Square.

Of course many of us are familiar with the challenges of putting up our Christmas trees at home. However, a 25-metre high tree presents a much bigger and more difficult operation.

A specialist rigging team puts it up in the square using a hydraulic crane. A spigot shoe is secured to the base of the tree. It is then lifted by crane into the pit. Once inside, eight large clamps keep the trunk is in place. The prepared base fits into a collar at the bottom of the pit.

The tree is then decorated in traditional Norwegian style, with vertical strings of LED lights. This energy-efficient lighting uses 28 per cent less energy than the halogen light bulb used in the pasts. The lights are powered by the square’s mains power.

Once it’s ready, the tree becomes an important focal point for carol singing and yuletide events over the festive period. The tree remains until just before the Twelfth Night of Christmas. It is then taken down for recycling, chipped and composed to make mulch.

The tree will be lit in a special ceremony on Thursday 1 December at 6pm.