Every year, millions of people around the world brave the cold and the crowds to see the lighting ceremony for their hometown Christmas trees, a tradition thought to have begun in the 16th century. It’s hard to believe these colossal trees once began as small seedlings and have blossomed into festive holiday symbols after half of a century or more.
Many of the elaborate Christmas displays across the globe are quite a sight to see and inspired us to get to the “root” of some the world’s most iconic trees. Get in the holiday spirit with a visit to any of these festive holiday scenes.
Rockefeller Center, New York, New York, United States
There’s nothing quite like the magic of New York City during the holidays. This season, the famous Rockefeller Center is “spruced” up by an 26-metre, 13-ton tree, which was grown in Danville, Penn. The Sigafoos family, who live on a farm 250 kilometres from New York, had the honour of donating the Norway Spruce. After taking the journey to the Big Apple, the 90-year-old tree was brightened with 45,000 LED lights and topped with a 3-metre-wide Swarovski star during the 82nd annual ceremony. In true Christmas Spirit, after the tree has been taken down in January, its wood will be used to build homes for Habitat for Humanity.
Trafalgar Square, London, England
London’s famous Christmas tree is both festive and friendly. Since 1947, Oslo, Norway’s capital city, has gifted London with a Christmas fir tree to thank the city for its help during World War II. This year is no different, as the Norwegian fir in the centre of Trafalgar Square was grown in Lilomarka, a town northeast of Oslo. The Mayor of Oslo, Mayor of Westminster and Norwegian Ambassador all joined together on Dec. 4 to light the symbolic tree. Every day until Dec. 23, local choirs will sing carols beneath the tree to add to the Christmas cheer.
Although residents of Sydney won’t be getting a white Christmas, they will get to enjoy a one-of-a-kind holiday tree. Outside Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall stands the tallest Lego tree in the Southern Hemisphere. The 10-metre tree was designed and built by Australian Lego Certified Professional Ryan McNaught, along with a few of Santa’s helpers. It took 1,200 hours and half a million bricks to finalize the creation, which features basketball-sized ornaments and a colossal star. In true Aussie style, a Lego Santa with a life-size surfboard even stands in front of the tree. For those that prefer a real, live timber, Sydney’s Martin Place is also home to a 20-metre-tall tree adorned with 60,000 lights.
Daley Plaza, Chicago, Illinois, United States
There’s no place like home for the holidays, which is why the city of Chicago ensures the Christmas tree lighting up Daley Plaza is always grown within 161 kilometres of its famed Loop. This year’s tree hails from Elgin, Ill. and is donated by the Atkinson family, who finally landed the honour after four years of persistence. For the past three years, the tree that stood in their front yard was selected as runner-up in the contest, but the 17-metre Colorado blue spruce finally made its big debut at the Nov. 25 tree lighting ceremony headlined by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. Chicago residents and visitors of the city can rock around the Christmas tree through January.
Notre Dame, Paris, France
For the first time in Parisian history, the iconic Christmas tree at Notre Dame has come all the way from Russia. Since the local French parish could not fulfill its financial goals this year, Moscow rose to the occasion to make the City of Lights extra merry and bright. In a symbol of goodwill sparked by the season, Russian ambassador Aleksandr Orlov and the rector of the Notre Dame de Paris, Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, joined together for the tree lighting held in late November. This gift certainly gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “From Russia, with love.”
Washington, D.C., United States
Those of you dreaming of a white (house) Christmas will be interested to know this year’s National Christmas tree has journeyed from the state of Pennsylvania all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue. Since 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has held a contest to select the tree that will be enjoyed by the first family. Chris Botek, a second-generation Christmas tree farmer from Leighton, Penn., won this year’s competition, as well as previous contests in 2006 and 2010, making his farm the only one to donate a tree to the White House three times. Adhering to tradition, the 5.6-metre Douglas fir was received by Michelle Obama and trimmed down to fit inside the Blue Room, which has since become a lot more red and green.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is home to the world’s largest floating Christmas “tree.” Although the tree doesn’t technically have roots, the impressive man-made structure stands 85 metres tall and shines brightly in the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. 2014’s holiday theme, “Um Natal de Luz,” honours the importance of light in people’s lives, which is represented by the sun, moon and star symbols throughout the tree. The entire structure weighs 542 tons and is adorned with 3.1 million microlights, making it certified by the Guinness World Records as the biggest of its kind.
Prague, Czech Republic
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the Czech Republic. The tree shining in Prague’s historic Old Town Square delights shoppers from all over the world who visit the open-air Christmas market each year. This year the 20-metre-tall, 72-year-old spruce was grown in Enspeky, in the Benešov District in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. It’s illuminated by 100,000 LED bulbs and boasts decorations in the shape of gingerbread, angels and Christmas presents.
Boston Common, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Canada! For the past 43 years the city of Boston has had some help celebrating the holidays from its northern neighbours. Boston’s official tree, which stands in the Boston Common, is given as an annual token of appreciation from Nova Scotia. In 1917, Boston stepped in to provide emergency assistance when Halifax, Nova Scotia, was in danger from an explosion. In 1918, Halifax showed its gratitude by gifting the city with a Christmas tree, a gesture that was repeated in 1973 and has been a holiday tradition ever since. This year’s Boston tree is a 13-metre white spruce that is estimated to be around 55 years old.
What’s better than one Christmas tree to celebrate the holidays? 1,700 trees! Yes, you read that right. Often dubbed the world’s tallest tree, this Dortmund, Germany holiday fixture actually comprises nearly 2,000 smaller individual fir trees. The entire tree measures 45 metres tall and is embellished with a 4-metre angel on top. It’s no surprise visitors from all over the world flock to the city to visit Dortmund’s famous Christmas Market and see the spectacular tree up close. While there, tourists can shop at 300 stands, feast on traditional German sausage and quench their thirst with a beer. After all, ‘tis the season to eat, drink and be merry!
(Featured image: Boris Tylevich)