Christmas is the most magical time of year, and worldwide traditions have shaped it into the celebration we all know and love today. The festivities wouldn’t be complete without a Christmas tree, whether that’s in the home or in your local town or city – in this article we look at the most jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring Christmas trees around the world. A long-awaited and joyfully-brilliant holiday for millions across the globe, the history of the Christmas tree is long and rich and one that has changed over the centuries, but the magic of these unique offerings still brings happiness and pleasure to many.
From widespread twinkles to long-standing festive traditions – who’s ready to get festive this year on a Christmas cruise?
The Rockefeller Centre
When people say big Christmas trees, The Rockefeller Christmas Tree is almost always the first thing that comes to mind and for completely valid reasons, it’s magnificent. The first Christmas tree in the centre of New York was erected and decorated in 1931 and was nothing more than a small 20-foot balsam fir decorated in cranberries, paper garlands and tin cans.
Since the first vision in 1931, there has been a tree in the same location every year, with the recent year’s decorative pieces reaching between a whopping 75 and 90 foot.
The Globetrotting Teacher visited New York and saw the Rockefeller Tree and reported about their experience: “It’s truly spectacular and a New York Christmas holiday must. The decorations inside Rockefeller Center add to the display of lights and festivities. It just wouldn’t be a very New York Christmas if you didn’t see the Rockefeller Tree!”
The New York decorations go above and beyond a magnificent tree, as the installations around the city are breathtaking. A huge ice rink is put in place below the view of the tree and large, glowing angels line the path down to the bottom of the centre – it truly is an unmissable and utterly magical view.
Known by locals as the Christmas tree capital of the world, Riga in Latvia is also said to be the location of the first-ever documented decorated Christmas Tree.
Ilze who blogs at Let The Journey Begin lives in Latvia and thinks you can’t beat the beauty of the tree in Riga: “I’m probably biased, but for me, there is no better winter holiday destination than Riga, Latvia: the city where the first Christmas tree was decorated more than 500 years ago. Riga’s main Christmas tree illuminates a bustling Christmas market at the foot of the majestic medieval Riga Cathedral.”
She goes on to describe more about what there is to do in Riga at Christmas time: “But the self-proclaimed Christmas tree capital of the world has more to offer. Every year the urban art festival Ziemassvētku egļu ceļš (The Way Through the Christmas Trees) lights up the city with dozens of extraordinary Christmas trees that play with material and light. And take note: while most European cities have closed their markets and packed up their holiday decorations by Christmas Day, the festivities in Riga continue until the Orthodox Christmas in early January!”
From the 19th November Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen’s ever so popular amusement park and pleasure gardens open its gates for the festive season. A feast for the senses, the gardens boast some of the most magical Christmas offerings in Europe, not to mention the immensely impressive Christmas tree and festive market. First opening its gates in 1843, making it the oldest amusement park in the world, the gardens have been a hive of activity since and always impresses with its festive displays.
We spoke to Nadia from Scandi Mummy and asked her about the most impressive Christmas tree she has seen, she recommended Tivoli Gardens: “I love Christmas in Copenhagen. In recent years, Tivoli Gardens, have opened as an attraction during November and December as well as the summer period. Here you'll find proper Danish 'hygge' including a beautiful Christmas tree. With Tivoli Gardens being the oldest amusement park in the world it holds so much history which in many ways is reflected in this tree.
“If you haven't already I highly recommend reading Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Fir Tree.” Written in Copenhagen, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Fir Tree came out one year after Tivoli first opened its gates!
Image credit – Tivoli PR
We then spoke to the team at Tivoli Gardens, who told us a little more about what happens in the park at Christmas time: “As always, the Christmas season begins with the lighting of the 35,250 electric candles on the large Christmas tree in front of the Concert Hall. It tends to be a Copenhagen tradition to come and see the lighting of the tree. In Denmark, it is a tradition that the children in the family decorate the tree often with real candles and homemade Christmas decorations. On Christmas Eve we dance around the tree singing Christmas Carols. Manually over 80,000 Christmas baubles are hung around Tivoli Gardens to create a fantastic and pretty Christmas scenery.”
The list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning London and the tree that is erected year on year in Trafalgar Square. The tree in this famous square has a warming meaning behind it, being gifted to the city of London since 1947 as an offering from the people of Norway in recognition of Britain’s support during WW2.
Insight Guides reports a little more on the background of the famous Norwegian Spruce: “The trees are large, usually over 20m tall, and are chosen and cut in a ceremony attended by the mayor of Oslo and a number of British dignitaries before beginning the 1,100km journey to their new London home. The Norwegian spruce crosses the North Sea, reaching the docks of the East of England, where it is loaded upon a truck to make its way to the heart of the city, eventually being winched into place by a crane in the early hours of a morning in early December.”
Head to Trafalgar Square throughout December and witness the illuminating scenery for yourself, it’s a truly magical and festive experience.
The city of love and a location that takes Christmas to completely new levels, the Christmas tree installed into Galeries Lafayette in Paris every year goes above and beyond and is always out to impress.
No expense is spared when it comes to the magical tree that graces the centre of this already impressive shopping centre with yearly themes ranging from Swarovski crystal installations to upside down, hanging trees – no two years are the same. Often graced by some famous names, the opening ceremony is a show not to be missed, so if you’re planning to visit Paris on your next cruise, make your way into this metropolis of magic.
Take a wander inside the building and gasp at the intricate details and the time and care that has been put into making the LED display bigger and better every year – it truly is the most extravagant tree the world has ever seen.
The small medieval town in Italy, Gubbio takes a twist on traditional Christmas tree styles and offers an installation that is bigger and more impressive than anything else the world has seen. Named ‘The World’s Largest Christmas Tree’ in 1991, the tree is installed on the side of Mount Ingino and takes up a vast 650 meters and consists of 3000 multi-coloured lights.
A tradition that started in 1981 by the people of the town, the tree is now lit up every year on December 7th and in recent years has been illuminated by Pope Francis using a tablet computer.
Fodors reported on the illuminations in Gubbio: “Measuring 1,475 feet at its base and 2,362 in height, this is no normal tree. It’s not even a tree. Thousands of lights are strung together by more than 5 miles of electrical cords, creating a stunning outline that can be seen up to 30 miles away. Its lighting celebration is no small event, either, with such luminaries as Pope Francis in 2014 doing the honours. This year, the Italian Aeronautic Military’s tricolour jets officiate, painting the sky with the green, white, and red of the Italian flag.”
No matter where you are planning to book your all-inclusive cruises this Christmas, there is bound to be a Christmas tree or two to bring that extra festive touch to your trip. If you’re heading to one of the locations we have mentioned in this blog, then make sure you see these impressive trees and experience Christmas from a whole new perspective.
The most impressive Christmas trees around the world:
- The Rockefeller Centre – New York
- Riga – Latvia
- Copenhagen – Denmark
- Trafalgar Square – London
- Galeries Lafayette – Paris
- Gubbio - Italy