Why does Norway gift the UK a Christmas tree every year? 

Every year since 1947, the people of Norway have gifted the UK a Christmas tree displayed in Trafalgar Square during the festive period. 

Pictured is the 2019 Christmas tree.
Norway gifts the Christmas tree as a symbol of its appreciation for the UK's support during World War Two. Pictured is 2019's offering. Photo by Daniel Leal/ AFP.

One of the first things you’ll notice if you are near or around Trafalgar Square in London at Christmas is a 20-meter-high Christmas tree on display for everyone to enjoy. 

The tree is displayed every year and is a gift from Norway to the UK. The lights are normally switched on at the beginning of December to mark the countdown to Christmas. 

This year the tree will be lit up on Thursday, December 2nd at 7pm CET. 

The tree has been met with a slightly lukewarm reception on social media this year due to its sparse branches and less than healthy-looking appearance. 

One Twitter user joked, “Are we at war with Norway now?” while another questioned whether this year’s tree was a sign that “Norway has not taken the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjær well”. 

A social media account for the tree, run by Westminster City Council, explained in jest that the branches of the tree weren’t missing and “social distancing” instead.

The tradition of Norway gifting the UK a tree goes back over 74 years to a couple of years after the Second World War. 

The yearly event see’s the people of Norway gift the UK a roughly 20-metre tall Norwegian Spruce, often selected months or sometimes years in advance, as a sign of their gratitude for Britain’s support for Norway during World War Two. 

READ ALSO: What you should know if you’re invited to a Norwegian ‘julebord’

The tree, typically 50-60 years old when ready to be cut down, is felled during a ceremony attended by the British Ambassador to Norway, the Mayor of Oslo and Lord Mayor of Westminster during November. At the base of the tree, there is a plaque that reads, “This tree is given by the City of Oslo as a token of Norwegian gratitude to the people of London for their assistance during the years 1940-45.” 

It is then brought to the UK by sea, before making its way to London by lorry. The tree is then adorned with typical Norwegian decorative lights before being displayed to the public until the 12th day of Christmas. 

While the annual tradition dates back seven decades, the first Christmas tree was actually gifted to the UK in 1942. 

During a raid on Hisøy Island between Bergen and Haugesund, west Norway, resistance fighter Mons Urangsvåg cut down a Norwegian pine and shipped it back to England as a gift for the exiled King Haakon. 

King Haakon decided to pass the gift onto the UK, and so it was erected in Trafalgar Square, although with no lights due to the blackouts caused by the Blitz. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Where in Norway will there be a white Christmas this year?

Everyone dreams of a white Christmas, and forecasters have revealed which parts of Norway are likely to see one this year.

Pictured is a white Christmas in Geilo, south-east Norway.
Find out where in Norway you are likely to see a white Christmas this year. Pictured is a Christmas tree in Geilo. Photo by Håkon Sataøen on Unsplash

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute has published its Christmas forecast and it’s good news for those in the north, the east and living inland if they want a white Christmas, but bad news for those on the coast and in the west. 

Following untypical mild weather in large parts of Norway over the past couple of weeks, a cold snap is expected nationwide in the run-up to Christmas. The coldest temperatures will be found in parts of Finnmark, where temperatures could dip below -30 degrees Celsius.

The plummeting temperatures aren’t just restricted to the north, as most of the country will experience a cold end to December following more mild weather earlier this month.

Those hoping for a white Christmas in Trøndelag and further north will, perhaps unsurprisingly, see their wishes granted this year, as is the case most years.

Areas with higher elevation and further inland are the most likely to see the horizon blanketed in snow. However, snowfall is expected to stretch further out to coastal areas, which are comparatively milder during the winter months.

“It looks like there will be some snowfall, and it is cool that there will be snow quite far down to the coast,” Solsvik Vågane from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute told newspaper VG.

In Eastern parts of Norway and Oslo, a white Christmas will potentially be on the cards due to the chilly weather making it more likely for the precipitation to come in the form of snow rather than rain.

Below is the meteorological institute’s Christmas forecast for south-east Norway. Areas with snow-covered Christmas trees are likely to see a white Christmas and those without snow probably won’t. 

Vågane said that while a bit of snow could be expected on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, it was unclear whether it would settle.

“It looks like there will be a little sprinkle on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It will be a thin sprinkle, but it can create a bit of a Christmas atmosphere,” the meteorologist said.

In west Norway, temperatures will hover around zero, meaning rain is possible for cities like Bergen and Stavanger.