Top 10 iconic Christmas trees and their roots

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Every year, millions of people around the world brave the cold and the crowds to see the lighting ceremony for their hometown Christmas trees, a tradition thought to have begun in the 16th century. It’s hard to believe these colossal trees once began as small seedlings and have blossomed into festive holiday symbols after half of a century or more.

Many of the elaborate Christmas displays across the globe are quite a sight to see and inspired us to get to the “root” of some the world’s most iconic trees. Get in the holiday spirit with a visit to any of these festive holiday scenes.

Rockefeller Center, New York, New York, United States

There’s nothing quite like the magic of New York City during the holidays. This season, the famous Rockefeller Center is “spruced” up by an 85-foot, 13-ton tree, which was grown in Danville, Penn. The Sigafoos family, who live on a farm 155 miles from New York, had the honor of donating the Norway Spruce. After taking the journey to the Big Apple, the 90-year-old tree was brightened with 45,000 LED lights and topped with a 9 1/2-foot-wide Swarovski star during the 82nd annual ceremony. In true Christmas Spirit, after the tree has been taken down in January, its wood will be used to build homes for Habitat for Humanity.

Rockefeller Center Christmas tree (Image: James Manners used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
Rockefeller Center Christmas tree (Image: James Manners used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Trafalgar Square, London, England

London’s famous Christmas tree is both festive and friendly. Since 1947, Oslo, Norway’s capital city, has gifted London with a Christmas fir tree to thank the city for its help during World War II. This year is no different, as the Norwegian fir in the center of Trafalgar Square was grown in Lilomarka, a town northeast of Oslo. The Mayor of Oslo, Mayor of Westminster and Norwegian Ambassador all joined together on Dec. 4 to light the symbolic tree. Every day until Dec. 23, local choirs will sing carols beneath the tree to add to the Christmas cheer.

Christmas Tree Roots: 10 Iconic Holiday Trees & Their Origins 5
Trafalgar Square (Image: Peter Trimming)

Sydney, Australia

Although residents of Sydney won’t be getting a white Christmas, they will get to enjoy a one-of-a-kind holiday tree. Outside Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall stands the tallest Lego tree in the Southern Hemisphere. The 33-foot tree was designed and built by Australian Lego Certified Professional Ryan McNaught, along with a few of Santa’s helpers. It took 1,200 hours and half a million bricks to finalize the creation, which features basketball-sized ornaments and a colossal star. In true Aussie style, a Lego Santa with a life-size surfboard even stands in front of the tree. For those that prefer a real, live timber, Sydney’s Martin Place is also home to a nearly 66-foot-tall tree adorned with 60,000 lights.

Lego Christmas tree at Pitt Street Mall (Image: Pitt Street Mall)
Lego Christmas tree at Pitt Street Mall (Image: Pitt Street Mall)

Daley Plaza, Chicago, Illinois, United States

There’s no place like home for the holidays, which is why the city of Chicago ensures the Christmas tree lighting up Daley Plaza is always grown within 100 miles of its famed Loop. This year’s tree hails from Elgin, Ill. and is donated by the Atkinson family, who finally landed the honor after four years of persistence. For the past three years, the tree that stood in their front yard was selected as runner-up in the contest, but the 57-foot Colorado blue spruce finally made its big debut at the Nov. 25 tree lighting ceremony headlined by Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. Chicago residents and visitors of the city can rock around the Christmas tree through January.

Daley Plaza Christmas tree (Image: Ben Miller used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
Daley Plaza Christmas tree (Image: Ben Miller used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Notre Dame, Paris, France

For the first time in Parisian history, the iconic Christmas tree at Notre Dame has come all the way from Russia. Since the local French parish could not fulfill its financial goals this year, Moscow rose to the occasion to make the City of Lights extra merry and bright. In a symbol of goodwill sparked by the season, Russian ambassador Aleksandr Orlov and the rector of the Notre Dame de Paris, Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, joined together for the tree lighting held in late November. This gift certainly gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “From Russia, with love.”

Notre Dame at Christmastime (Image: Brian Jeffery Beggerly)
Notre Dame at Christmastime (Image: Brian Jeffery Beggerly)

Washington, D.C., United States

Those of you dreaming of a white (house) Christmas will be interested to know this year’s National Christmas tree has journeyed from the state of Pennsylvania all the way to Pennsylvania Avenue. Since 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has held a contest to select the tree that will be enjoyed by the first family. Chris Botek, a second-generation Christmas tree farmer from Leighton, Penn., won this year’s competition, as well as previous contests in 2006 and 2010, making his farm the only one to donate a tree to the White House three times. Adhering to tradition, the 18 1/2-foot Douglas fir was received by Michelle Obama and trimmed down to fit inside the Blue Room, which has since become a lot more red and green.

Christmas tree outside of The White House (Image: Tim Evanson used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
Christmas tree outside of The White House (Image: Tim Evanson used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is home to the world’s largest floating Christmas “tree.” Although the tree doesn’t technically have roots, the impressive man-made structure stands 280 feet tall and shines brightly in the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. 2014’s holiday theme, “Um Natal de Luz,” honors the importance of light in people’s lives, which is represented by the sun, moon and star symbols throughout the tree. The entire structure weighs 542 tons and is adorned with 3.1 million microlights, making it certified by the Guinness World Records as the biggest of its kind.

World's largest floating tree in Rio de Janeiro (Image: leandrociuffo)
World’s largest floating tree in Rio de Janeiro (Image: leandrociuffo)

Prague, Czech Republic

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the Czech Republic. The tree shining in Prague’s historic Old Town Square delights shoppers from all over the world who visit the open-air Christmas market each year. This year the 65-foot-tall, 72-year-old spruce was grown in Enspeky, in the Benešov District in the Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic. It’s illuminated by 100,000 LED bulbs and boasts decorations in the shape of gingerbread, angels and Christmas presents.

Christmas in Prague (Image: Huangjiahui used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
Christmas in Prague (Image: Huangjiahui used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

Boston Common, Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Oh, Christmas tree, oh, Canada! For the past 43 years the city of Boston has had some help celebrating the holidays from its northern neighbors. Boston’s official tree, which stands in the Boston Common, is given as an annual token of appreciation from Nova Scotia. In 1917, Boston stepped in to provide emergency assistance when Halifax, Nova Scotia, was in danger from an explosion. In 1918, Halifax showed its gratitude by gifting the city with a Christmas tree, a gesture that was repeated in 1973 and has been a holiday tradition ever since. This year’s Boston tree is a 43-foot white spruce that is estimated to be around 55 years old.

Christmas Tree Roots: 10 Iconic Holiday Trees & Their Origins 1
The 2013 Boston Common tree (Image: Stephanie Schaefer)

Dortmund, Germany

What’s better than one Christmas tree to celebrate the holidays? 1,700 trees! Yes, you read that right. Often dubbed the world’s tallest tree, this Dortmund, Germany holiday fixture actually comprises nearly 2,000 smaller individual fir trees. The entire tree measures 148 feet tall and is embellished with a 13-foot angel on top. It’s no surprise visitors from all over the world flock to the city to visit Dortmund’s famous Christmas Market and see the spectacular tree up close. While there, tourists can shop at 300 stands, feast on traditional German sausage and quench their thirst with a beer. After all, ‘tis the season to eat, drink and be merry!

Tallest Christmas tree in Dortmund, Germany (Image: Achim Hepp used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)
Tallest Christmas tree in Dortmund, Germany (Image: Achim Hepp used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license)

(Featured image: Boris Tylevich)

Top 10 iconic Christmas trees and their roots was last modified: October 25th, 2016 by Stephanie Schaefer
Author: Stephanie Schaefer (19 posts)

Stephanie is a Boston native who loves to find ways to escape New England winters. She’s thrown a coin in the Trevi Fountain, sipped wine on a vineyard in Northern Spain and swam in the Mediterranean Sea. Although she hasn’t been everywhere, it’s definitely on her list.