Tuesday, 22 December 2015

On London's German Christmas Trees and Markets

Christmas Trees outside London offices

Christmas trees were first introduced to Britain from Germany. Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert recreated the Christmas trees of his childhood at Windsor Castle. A drawing of the decorated tree featured in Illustrated London News in 1848.

There was no looking back. The Victorians copied the Royal Family and decorated trees in their homes too. The German custom became a British one.

Christmas Tree outside Houses of Parliament

While there is no doubt that the custom came to Britain from Germany, both Latvia and Estonia claim to be the origin of the first Christmas tree. Some sources suggest that the first Christmas tree appeared in both Riga and Tallinn in 1510. Accounts passed down through oral history means that we may never be able to determine the exact truth.

Northern Europe is undoubtedly the origin of the Christmas tree. It was Germany that spread its decoration customs throughout the world. 

Pic of Fortnum & Mason's decorated Christmas Tree at Somerset House, London
Decorated Christmas Tree at Somerset House

Although Christmas trees are associated with the Christian festival today, their origins are in pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice.

Christmas in Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square is at London’s heart. It is central to British democracy and the right to freedom of expression. In 2015, it witnessed British solidarity with the French over the tragic events in Paris. 

Pic of Norway's Christmas Tree lit up at night in Trafalgar Square with National Gallery behind
Norway's 2015 Christmas Tree Gift in Trafalgar Square

Every year the people of Norway give a Christmas tree to the people of Britain in recognition of British support for their nation during the Second World War. It is therefore fitting that this annual gift is displayed in Trafalgar Square. This year’s tree appears in the photo above.
There are also numerous brightly-lit Christmas trees throughout the capital.

It is not just the German Christmas tree tradition that Britain has taken to heart. The number of German Christmas markets seem to increase throughout the capital and the rest of the United Kingdom with every passing year. 

German Christmas Market Banner on London's South Bank

Winter Wonderland is a fabulous annual Christmas market in Hyde Park. 

pic of Winter Wonderland sign at night in Hyde Park
Hyde Park's Winter Wonderland Christmas Market

This year, I visited the German Christmas market outside the Tate Modern on the South Bank. One stall there even had a Christmas tree on top.

Pic of Christmas tree on top of market stall outside Tate Modern
Tree on top of German Christmas Market

Outside or inside, real or artificial, big or small… Christmas today is unthinkable without the custom brought to Britain by a German Prince. 

Frohe Weihnachten! Merry Christmas!

Where is the best decorated Christmas tree that you have seen this year?

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