Things are becoming considerably more festive at home now. This afternoon I picked up a Christmas tree from a nearby Country Park, then dug out the fairy lights and decorations from the loft. Now I’m sitting next to a twinkling, sparkly masterpiece (albeit sitting in a wastepaper bin held down with my diving weight belt), and picking pine needles out of my socks.
Having a real tree is a tradition I love, and this year we’ve got a silver fir, which has a lovely citrus-fresh scent and silvery-blue needles. Trees have been considered sacred by many cultures around the world, but the idea of a decorated Christmas tree was brought to the UK by the Hanovarian monachy at the start of the 19th century, and popularised by Queen Victoria and her German husband Albert.
But it isn’t Germany that many large public trees in the UK are associated with; they come instead from Norway.
The 25m tall Christmas tree that stands in Trafalgar Square is presented to the city of London each year by the city of Oslo. The tradition began in 1947, in recognition of hospitality afforded to King Haakon VII and his family, and the Norwegian government-in-exile hosted in London after the invasion of Nazi forces in 1940.
Norwegian Christmas trees also stand outdoors in Edinburgh, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (both presented by the city of Bergen), Aberdeen, Sunderland (both from the city of Stavanger), Grimsby (from Sortland region) and in Kirkwall, Orkney (from Hordaland region).
The Kirkwall tree stands outside the medieval red sandstone building of St Magnus cathedral, whilst inside the cathderal there is a second tree, which comes from a forest outside Grimstad in Norway, the childhood home of St Magnus and his nephew, St Rognvald, commemorating a much older connection between Britain and Norway.
A traditional Norwegian Christmas tree is usually decorated with strings of national flags, heart-shaped paper baskets containing sweets or nuts, home-made decorations, and topped with a star. Instead of electric fairy lights, the tree is lit with candles, and the effect is stunning (if a little unnerving, in the corner of a room in a wooden house!). Vlad and Johna at Wind Against Current are brave enough to keep the tradition, check out their beautiful tree here.