Norway and the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square

Every year since 1947, the city of Oslo, Norway have given a special gift to London, England—a Christmas Tree. The gift is a mark of Norway’s gratitude for Britain’s support during World War II.

This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by ePublishing Partners, now available on Google Arts & Culture

Norway and the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square by Google Arts & Culture

It is erected in Trafalgar Square and lit in a ceremony that starts the capital’s countdown to Christmas day. Join the crowd to observe the annual handover and take part in the festivities.


London Christmas trees are selected in the Norwegian forest many years before they’re cut down. Land is cleared around a chosen tree to allow the light to reach it from every angle. 

The tree is cut in a ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, the British ambassador to Norway, the Mayor of Oslo, and some lucky school children who get to witness the green giant cut through at the base of the trunk and lifted away on a crane.

The Tree

About 33% of Norway is forested, and much of the forest is coniferous—that is, comprised of evergreen trees such as firs and spruce. The tree selected for London is usually a spruce, 50-60 years old, and over 20 metres tall.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is one of London’s most iconic locations and one of the most famous gathering places in the world. The broad open plaza is perfect for cultural events and celebrations, rallies and demonstrations, commercial events, and film and photo shoots—perhaps you’ve never been to London, but you’ve probably seen Trafalgar Square in a movie.

Norway and the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square by Google Arts & Culture

Here the crowd is gathering for the annual Christmas tree lighting. Before the ceremony begins, let’s take look around.

The National Gallery

The National Gallery on Trafalgar Square opened in 1938. Conceived as ‘a gallery for all’, it is centrally located, and admission is always free. The gallery’s collections feature Western European works of art from the 13th to the 19th centuries. 

St Martin-in-the-Fields

St Martin-in-the-Fields dates back at least to the 13th century. Henry VIII had the church rebuilt in 1542, but that church was pulled down in 1721 and replaced by the church we see today.

Statue of Nelson

Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson was one of Britain’s greatest naval commanders, famous for his victory in the Battle of . . . Trafalgar.

Norway and the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square by Google Arts & Culture

The Stage is Set

Evening has fallen, and the stage is set for the tree lighting ceremony. To remind us why we’re here, there is a plaque at the base of the tree.


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. When German troops invaded Norway in 1940, the Norwegian royal family and government and defence chiefs were given refuge in London, where they created a government-in-exile.


Spectators can join the choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields in carol singing. In the following days leading up to Christmas, over 40 groups of carollers will sing Holiday favourites in the square.

The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army Band is also here to play and bring cheer. The Salvation Army is a Christian charitable organisation whose mission is to feed, clothe, comfort, and care for the needy.

The Press

Tonight, people across the United Kingdom will watch the tree lighting ceremony on the late-night news. Tomorrow, newspapers will feature pictures of the glowing tree on their front pages.

The Handover

Leading the proceedings is the Lord Mayor of Westminster, who will accept the gift of the tree from the Mayor of Oslo, while the Norwegian Ambassador stands by. The hundreds of spectators on hand shiver in their winter coats and wait for Oslo’s mayor to throw the switch. 

Tree Lighting

The tree is decorated with vertical strings of white lights in the Norwegian tradition. The 500 to 600 light bulbs are energy-efficient. The tree will stay lit 24 hours a day until Twelfth Night (6 January).

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps