Every year, Norway sends a Christmas tree to England to show their friendship and gratitude for Britain’s assistance during World War II. The tree, which is usually 20 to 25 m in height and about 60 years old, is then shipped free-of-charge across the North Sea to Immingham by DFDS Tor Line. A special crew is contracted to haul it from the docks to Trafalgar Square and place it on a specific space which is allocated every year to the tree, and it takes hours to put it up.
During the war in 1940, King Haakon VII escaped to Britain and a Norwegian exile government was set up in London. Among the Norwegian king and other Norwegians, London came to represent the spirit of freedom during the tough years during the war. It was actually three trees which were brought in 1943 (which was the start of the tradition), as a token from the Norwegian underground fighters to show their gratefulness (because they were supplied by the Britains). The trees were meant for the Norwegian king, the Norwegian embassy and one for display at Trafalgar Square.
The tree has become a symbol of the close and warm relationship between the people of Britain and Norway. Norwegians are also happy and proud of this token, and the famous Christmas tree seems to have become a big part of Christmas for Londoners.
The ceremony of switching on the lights takes place in the early evening on the first Thursday in December. After the switching, there is always a band playing and a choir singing Christmas carols as the Lord Mayor of Westminster arrives with his party. The floodlighting of the nearby National Gallery is specially dimmed for the occasion. At the flick of a switch the Christmas tree comes alive, turning into a twinkling mass of lights. In line with Norwegian tradition the lights are all white; electrical bulbs being the twenty first-century equivalent of candlelight.