How the Christmas tree came to Britain

London Christmas tree

London’s Norwegian Christmas tree

Could you envision London celebrating Christmas without its iconic Christmas tree on Trafalgar Square? Ever since 1947, this beautifully lit-up tree is gifted each year by the people of Norway. It is a gesture of gratitude for Britain’s support in fighting off the German invasion in 1940. The tree is 20-25 metres high and decorated in Norwegian style with vertical strings of hundreds of light bulbs (energy-efficient ones of course!).

While admiring the breath-taking festive decoration in the streets across London, it is hard to imagine that only 200 years ago, Christmas was not a major holiday in Britain. Likewise, Christmas trees were an absolute rarity.

A German tradition made fashionable

This German tradition was introduced by the Hanoverian monarchs George III and Queen Charlotte. Only in 1800, Britain’s first ever Christmas tree was set up in Windsor Castle. This custom did not spread beyond Royal circles for some time. Only some wealthy upper class families thought it fashionable to have a Christmas tree of their own in their homes.

The social (and commercial) significance of Christmas increased rapidly during the Victorian era, along with the emergence of traditions we still keep today. Much is due to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s German husband.

Wishing to pass on his own fond childhood memories to his children, Albert popularised German Christmas traditions in Britain. The new printing press picked up on the Royal family’s customs, and regularly reported on it. Having a beautifully decorated Christmas tree at home became more widely popular and, thanks to the industrial revolution, more easily accessible.

By the end of the 19th century, Christmas trees had become the norm for middle and upper class family homes, and were increasingly appearing in public places.

We hope you enjoy a wonderful and meaningful Christmas Season and wish you all the best for 2019!