Monday, November 25, 2013

The Christmas Tree's Public Persona - #ChristmasTrees #AdventCalendar2013 #PublicCeremonies

In conjunction with Ana's Advent Calendar 2013,
I'm doing a post here on the Christmas trees being dressed in public

Since the early 20th century, it has become common in many cities, towns, and department stores to put up public Christmas trees outdoors.  Well known public displays are:

Macy's Lenox Square Atlanta
The Macy's Great Tree in Atlanta - (a tradition since 1948 - 2013 lighting scheduled at Lenox Square Mall on Thanksgiving night, Thursday, November 28, 2013).

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree - New York City

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City - (2013 lighting scheduled on Wednesday, December 4th, 2013).

Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree - London, England
 The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree gift from Oslo, Norway in London (a traditon since 1947 - 2013 lighting scheduled on Thursday, December 5, 2013).

U.S. National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.

 The United States' National Christmas Tree in Washington DC (2013 lighting Ceremony Friday, December 6th, 2013).

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree dates back to the Depression Era days. The tallest tree displayed at Rockefeller Center came in 1948 and was a Norway Spruce that measured in at 100 feet tall and hailed from Killingworth, Connecticut.  The first tree at Rockefeller Center was placed in 1931. It was a small unadorned tree placed by construction workers at the center of the construction site. Two years later, another tree was placed there, this time with lights. These days, the giant Rockefeller Center tree is laden with over 25,000 Christmas lights.

The United States National Christmas Tree
The United States' National Christmas Tree  has been lit each year since 1923 on the South Lawn of the White House. Today, the lighting of the National Christmas Tree is part of what has become a major holiday event at the White House. A few notable exceptions to the ceremony occurred when President Jimmy Carter lit only the crowning star atop the tree in 1979 in honour of the Americans being held hostage in Iran. The same was true in 1980, except that the tree was fully lit for 417 seconds, one second for each day the hostages had been held in captivity.

Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree
The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree s a special commemorative gift from the City of Oslo, Norway as a token of appreciation for the British support of Norwegian resistance during the Second World War.  The annual lighting ceremony involves the Mayor of Oslo presenting the gift to the Mayor of London.

Other cities displaying "gifted" trees are:

Boston, where the tree is a gift from the province of Nova Scotia as thanks for rapid deployment of supplies and rescuers to the 1917 ammunition ship explosion that leveled the city of Halifax.

Newcastle upon Tyne, where the main civic Christmas tree is an annual gift from the city of Bergen, in thanks for the part played by soldiers from Newcastle in liberating Bergen from Nazi occupation.

And in addition to the tree in London, Norway also annually gifts a Christmas tree to Washington, D.C. as a symbol of friendship between Norway and the US and as an expression of gratitude from Norway for the help received from the US during World War II.

The Traditional Lifetime of a Christmas Tree

Both setting up and taking down a Christmas tree are associated with specific dates. Traditionally, Christmas trees were not brought in and decorated until Christmas Eve (24 December) or, for those whose traditions celebrated Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day, the 23 December, and then removed the day after Twelfth Night (5 January).  To have a tree up before or after these dates was even considered bad luck.  Fortunately, that's not the case any more, since we still had our tree up long after Twelfth Night and the Epiphany this year.

Our tree and decorations on Christmas Eve 2012
In many areas, it has become customary to set up one's Christmas tree at the beginning of the Advent season. Some families in the U.S. and Canada will put up a Christmas tree soon after the American Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of November), and Christmas decorations can show up even earlier in retail stores, often the day after Halloween (31 October).

Other households do not put up their tree until the second week of December, and leave it up until 6 January (Epiphany). In Germany, traditionally the tree is put up on 24 December and taken down on 7 January, though many start one or two weeks earlier, while in Roman Catholic homes the tree may be kept until February 2 (Candlemas).

Our 2012 rotating tree, Decorations and Gifts
Our 2012 tree saw Candlemas come and go, and watched the Easter Bunny hop on by, too.  It was down, however, by the time the ghosties and goblins came out to play at the end of October, so it never turned into a Halloween tree.  When we took it down, I'm not going to say for certain, but I think it may have caught a few of our neighborhood Labor Day fireworks before it was gently laid to rest in its green plastic resting place.

Not our tree.  Honest.  Though it could've been
For a preview into the history of the Christmas Tree and more information about the month-long event, please visit Ana's Advent Calendar.


  1. Hey, great post Katherine,
    for all the years I lived in London and saw the Trafalgar Square tree, I never went to a lighting ceremony and never knew it was gifted from Oslo. Every day's a school day!
    The Macey's tree above looks spectacular. Maybe one day I'll have to do a December in New York.

    1. We attended the Trafalgar tree lighting ceremony in 2010. My half sister lives in Norway and she visited us in London that year. Both the mayor of Oslo and London were there along with a choir. I recall it being cold and wet, but a lot of fun as we sang Christmas carols and got into the spirit with the hundreds others standing with us.

      I used to work in NYC, so I spent a lot of time around the tree in Rockefeller Center. One of my favorite places to be at Christmastime.

  2. Such a great post! I didn't know that the Trafalgar Square tree was a gift, either. A great way to kick off the Advent Calendar. Thank you.

    1. Norway also gifts the U.S. a tree every year. I don't think its lighting ceremony is as famous as the one in Trafalgar Square or our National Tree in Washington, D.C. Nor am I sure if it is always erected in the same place, since I'm sure Washington, D.C. has lots of Christmas trees.

  3. Thank you for letting me know about the facts about the Christmas tree. It was really informative.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting Angieia. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. What a great article! Full of information and lovely pictures. You really know how to put a blog post together, Kathryn! We had Christmas trees when I was a child, but once I became Jewish, that wasn't observed. These days we celebrate the Solstice, with lots of twinkly lights draped all over to ward off the mid-winter darkness.

    1. I love twinkly lights, but I would miss my tree. I am Christian, however, even if I weren't I think I'd call my tree an upright Yule log with lots of branches and decorations. Our tree has ornaments that rotate, like carousels, and some that go up and down and the whole tree slowly rotates in its holder. Kind of like a fairy wonderland, and festive. I'm trying to see if I can get a video of it that I can post, unfortunately, I have trouble holding my little Flip steady for long enough to make a successful video. We'll see.

    2. WOW, Kathryn! I hope you do get a video to post. I would love to see it.

  5. Great post Kathryn! I love learning unusual bits of information like this. Your tree was your living room looked very bare once it came down. Oh and yes...we know who that 'Halloween Tree' belongs to. ;)


    1. Thanks for dropping by, Cat. Yes, it did look a little bare once the tree came down. It takes us at least a week to put up, so we really hate to take it down. As for the Halloween Tree, I'm not telling....

  6. I always wanted a Christmas tree but being Jewish we didn't have one. However we did hank our stocking up on the fireplace. This year I'll get a Chanukah bush. Lol

  7. This year we will dance around the Chanukah bush. Lol

    1. Hey, Laurel, that works for me. Christmas Trees are pagan in origin anyway, and they weren't always just in Christian homes, even in the 19th century. Happy Chanukah dancing.


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