Why does Norway give a Christmas Tree to the UK every year?

Trafalgar Square Christmas TreeOslo.Trafalgar Square Christmas TreePhoto: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB

Every year a Norwegian Christmas tree takes pride of place in Trafalgar Square, the very center of London. It is a token of appreciation for the British help given to Norway during the Second World War.

A slice of Norway in the heart of London

If you ever find yourself in London at this time of the year, there will always be a rather large reminder of Norway firmly planted in the very heart of the city. Every year, Norway sends a 50-60-year-old Norwegian spruce Christmas Tree to be decorated and be the focal point of Christmas festivities in Trafalgar Square.

This tradition stretches back to 1947 and is an annual gift, from the people of Norway, in gratitude for British support during the Second World War.

Britain and Norway during the Second World War

The outbreak of the Second World War, in 1939, saw the German Army conquer huge swathes of Europe. From April 9, 1940, Germany undertook “Operation Weserübung” which was the invasion of both Norway and Denmark. Norway was invaded due to its strategic location, opposite the British Isles, and to secure iron ore shipments from Sweden through the port of Narvik, in northern Norway.

British forces led a 38,000 strong force, including French and Polish soldiers, to try and secure the port of Narvik but they retreated due to the capitulation of the French government in 1940. This led to the downfall of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain with Winston Churchill securing the reins of power until the end of the war.

There was widespread resistance to the German invasion which allowed both the Royal Family and key members of the government and cabinet to escape northward, from Oslo, on a train. They headed to Tromsø where they were evacuated, to safety in London, onboard the British ship HMS Devonshire on June 7, 1940. The Norwegian Armed Forces would eventually capitulate a few days later on June 1. Norway would remain under Nazi occupation until the end of the war, almost 5 years later.

King Håkon VII not only evaded capture but said that he would personally abdicate his throne if the Norwegian government chose to surrender. This was seen as a vital sign of Norwegian resistance and helped the resolve of Norwegians left under German occupation.

King Harald and Queen Elizabeth
Brother from another mother: King Harald and Queen Elizabeth are second cousins due to their direct descendant British Queen Victoria. Photo: Terje Bendiksby / NTB scanpix

Norwegians in exile

The Norwegian government in Exile, led by Prime Minister Johan Nygaardsvold, and the Royal Family, headed by King Håkon VII, and Crown Prince Olav, would remain in London for the remainder of the war.

Though Norway was one of a number of countries whose governments had taken refuge in London, there was a strong sense of affinity between British and Norwegians. The Royal households of the two countries are related through “The Grandmother of Europe,” 19th century British Queen Victoria.

With the help of Russian and American forces, Germany unconditionally surrendered on May 8, 1945. The Royal Family and government in exile returned to Norway exactly 5 years from the day they fled on June 7, 1945.

A small token of appreciation

The United Kingdom had welcomed not only the Norwegian government but also the Royal household and had given them shelter and refuge during the darkest period of Norwegian history. In 1947, the Oslo City Council decided to send a token of appreciation to their counterparts in the City of Westminster (the administrative heart of London). A Norwegian Christmas tree was selected and sent every year since.

The cutting down of the tree, done in early November, is traditionally overseen by the Mayor of Oslo, the British Ambassador to Norway, and the Lord Mayor of the City of Westminster. A Norwegian Christmas Tree, lighting up the dark London winters, was seen as a symbol of how British help had helped to illuminate one of the darkest periods of Norwegian history.

Source : ©️ NTB Scanpix / #NorwayTodayTravel / #Norway Today

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