Stung by criticism over the looks of the Christmas trees Oslo has recently sent to London, top officials in the Norwegian capital have made efforts to improve both its selection and transport. All hope this year’s tree, which was chopped down and sent off during the weekend, will get a warmer reception when it’s lit at Trafalgar Square on December 1.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first Christmas tree sent to London in gratitude for British support during World War II. Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen of the Socialist Left Party (SV) thinks that with war in Europe once again, it’s more important than ever that Oslo sends a tree as a symbol of fellowship and hope.
“In the times we’re living in now, which many think are frightening, I think that maintaining traditions of friendship and gratitude have their own great value,” Borgen told newspaper Dagsavisen earlier this fall.
She insists she hasn’t been bothered by criticism in London that the trees sent in recent years have been seen as scrawny, lacking branches and even resembling a cucumber. The grumbling took off in British media last year, when some jokingly wondered whether Great Britain was at war with Norway, or even whether Oslo was taking revenge over the firing of former Norwegian football player Ole Gunnar Solskjær as coach of Manchester United.
Dagsavisen noted in October that Oslo city officials were thus taking steps to secure the best tree they could find in the forests around the capital, and improving its transport to minimize damage. The trip itself from the Oslo valley of Sørkedalen this year to London has been cut by four days. The tree’s branches are being bound up in netting and the tree will be rinsed off with fresh water before it’s loaded on to a ship in Brevik, to wash off road dust and the salt used to melt ice and snow on Norwegian highways.
“I’ve always been part of chopping down the tree up in the forest and I’m at Trafalgar Square when the tree is lit,” Borgen told Dagsavisen. “Then we’ve seen that the tree has suffered some damage along the way. If we can prevent more branches from breaking, it would be nice.”
She dismissed last year’s griping but admitted that “it’s no fun when folks say the tree doesn’t look nice.” Other city officials had also noted that Norway’s embassy in London had received “various points of view from the public about the tree.” Some of them involved “the tree’s form and fullness,” or lack thereof.
On Saturday Borgen, the Lord Mayor of Westminster in London (where the tree will be displayed in Trafalgar Square) and the British ambassador to Norway were all on hand for the annual tree-chopping ceremony in the forest in Sørkedalen. The Norwegian spruce picked out this year is around 60-feet tall and appeared lush and healthy.
“This is an important tradition,” Borgen repeated. “The tree symbolizes friendship, solidarity and unity. In the difficult and uncertain times we’re living in now (following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), it’s important to maintain traditions that create fellowship and hope for the future.”
The tree was then loaded into a crib on a large truck bound for the harbour at Brevik, around 200 kilometers south of Oslo. From there it will be shipped below deck on a DFDS vessel to Immingham to protect it from sea water, then loaded onto another truck for the trip to the center of London.