Trafalgar Square Christmas tree gets branch transplant: where is it from and when will it be lit?

Workers put the finishing touches to the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree before the lighting ceremony (PA)
Workers put the finishing touches to the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree before the lighting ceremony (PA)

Trafalgar Square’s Christmas tree is arguably the capital’s most famous festive decoration but that did not stop it from drawing criticism on social media when it arrived in London on Monday morning from Norway.

Westminster City Council acknowledged that when the 70-foot fir tree was being planted in Trafalgar Square it was without branches that had been removed for transit. However, on Monday afternoon, arborists pounded the chopped branches back into the tree to give it a more uniform and symmetrical look.

The tree is the latest in a tradition dating from 1947 when Norway wanted to thank the UK for its support during Second World War. Ever since, it has been a symbol of Christmas celebrations in the centre of London.

The Christmas markets in Trafalgar Square are already underway, with 34 wooden chalets decorated with festive lights selling seasonal treats to passers-by.

However, the Christmas tree is yet to be illuminated. So when can we expect the lights to be switched on?

When will the Trafalgar Square tree be lit?

The lighting-up takes place on the first Thursday in December each year. This year, it falls on Thursday December 7 and will take place between 5.30pm and 6.30pm. The tree will remain in place until January 6 after which it will be shredded for compost and spread around London gardens.

Where is the Trafalgar Square tree from?

Each year, the tree is delivered as a gift from Norway in gratitude for the UK’s support during the Second World War. It is usually over 20 metres high and is decorated with simple lights.

King Haakon VII sent the first tree in 1947. This was to say thank you for being given a home in the UK after he fled Norway when Nazi Germany invaded.

Since then, a tree gets felled every year in November and then sets out for London by sea and lorry.

While the tree is a symbolic gesture of friendship between nations, it has also faced some criticism. The BBC reported that the tree that arrived in 2019 was criticised for looking “anaemic” and “droopy”.

The tree’s appearance was defended by the British ambassador to Norway, the appropriately named Richard Wood, who pointed out: “This is what 90-year-old, 25-metre trees in the wild look like. It is important to consider the symbolism of the tree rather than simply how many branches it has.”

Christmas events in London

As well as the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree lights switch on there are plenty of other events over the coming weeks.

Winter Wonderland – held at Hyde Park each year – will open its gates on Wednesday for a season of festive fun.

Several Christmas markets are already trading, including in Trafalgar Square and other locations such as Greenwich, Kingston and Covent Garden.

For more information about Christmas events in London, check our list here.