Norwegians have hit back at criticism of their annual Christmas tree gift to Britain after Londoners described it as ‘scrawny’ and ‘half dead’.
Bemused visitors to Trafalgar Square have been expressing their disappointment after the famous tree arrived in the capital looking a bit worse for wear.
Complaints have included that the 78-foot-tall Norwegian spruce looked ‘half eaten’ and ‘hungover’ ahead of the official lighting ceremony.
Others suggested it was ‘retaliation’ for Manchester United’s sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the Norwegian football manager.
However, Norwegians have now defended the tree against attacks, questioning what the UK had given them in return.
The Norwegian spruce has been an annual gift to London from Oslo each year since 1947, but the 24metre tree (pictured) has come under fire this year for looking ‘half dead’ and ‘hungover’
Oslo resident Lars Anton told The Times: ‘All the British gave us last Christmas was the Kent variant. If they don’t want the tree we can come and get it back.’
Marianne Borgen, Oslo’s mayor, took a more diplomatic line in responding to criticism, describing it as a ‘gift of love’ between the two countries.
‘People complain all the time. In 2019 I was told it looked like a cucumber,’ she said.
‘In the end, the tree is not really a tree at all, it’s a symbol of solidarity and friendship. It comes from the forest that embraces Oslo on all sides. So while it might arrive with injuries, it remains a gift of love.’
The Norwegian spruce has been an annual gift to the people of London from Oslo each year since 1947, as a token of gratitude for British support for Norway during the Second World War.
Ms Borgen was joined by Andrew Smith, the Lord Mayor of Westminster, last month in Oslo for a ceremony to cut down the Christmas tree so it could be transported to London before the tree’s lights were switched on in a ceremony on Thursday evening.
Marianne Borgen, Oslo’s mayor, took a more diplomatic line in responding to criticism, describing it as a ‘gift of love’ between the two countries
Ms Borgen was joined by Andrew Smith, the Lord Mayor of Westminster (pictured together), last month in Oslo for a ceremony to cut down the Christmas tree so it could be transported to London
‘I am pleased that people are passionate – it is a sign that Londoners care about the present we have sent them,’ Mayor Borgen added. ‘The tree comes from a forest.
‘This is a love tree and it means a lot to us to give it to Londoners. Though it started as a thank you to the British people for their help during World War Two, it is now as much about friendship, solidarity, hope for the future and peace.
‘The tree symbolises all this and I hope that when the lights are turned on, the symbolic message behind the gift is what people have in mind.’
Photographs taken on Wednesday showed hydraulic cranes raising the tree next to Nelson’s Column, but the tree’s ‘spindly’ appearance left many passersby underwhelmed.
Taking to Twitter, bewildered locals joked the spruce, which was felled from a Norwegian forest in November, proves Britain has offended Norway after Brexit and disagreements earlier this year about fishing rights.
One user quipped: ‘Have we gone to war with Norway?’
Another wrote: ‘We’re in for a terrible Christmas this year, this tree has predicted it.’
While a third commented: ‘Nothing says global Britain like a half dead tree!’
And a fourth penned: ‘Good grief, has it got a hangover?’
A fifth person joked the Norwegian spruce looked like the magnificent tree from How the Grinch Stole Christmas – after it was burned to a crisp by the festive-hating Grinch.
Every year, the Christmas tree (pictured in 2020) it is decorated in traditional Norwegian fashion, with vertical strings of energy-efficient lights
Photographs taken on Wednesday showed cranes putting the tree up in Trafalgar Square next to Nelson’s Column, but the tree’s ‘spindly’ appearance left many passersby underwhelmed
Bewildered locals joked the spruce, which was felled in November, proves Britain must have offended Norway after Brexit and disagreements earlier this year about fishing rights
And another person said: ‘Norway has not taken the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjær well’, implying the sparse tree is punishment for the Norwegian football manager’s departure from Manchester United.
Some asked if Norway had simply sent last year’s Christmas tree again, while others agreed it looked ‘pathetic’ compared to its predecessors.
But some Twitter users defended the tree’s appearance, arguing it is a ‘fine looking tree’ and insisting that it will look even better once it is lit up.
The tree has been a sign of Christmas in Trafalgar Square every year since 1947, as it is gifted to London by the people of Oslo as a token of gratitude for British support for Norway during the Second World War.
Every year, the spruce is felled in a PEFC certified forest at the end of November before transported via ship and lorry to take pride of place in the capital – with this year marking the 74th year of the beloved tradition.
The tree is put up using a hydraulic crane every year before it is decorated in traditional Norwegian fashion, with vertical strings of energy-efficient lights.
Onlookers gathered on Thursday evening at the base of the tree for the lighting ceremony attended by Lord Mayor of Westminster and the Mayor of Oslo
The ceremony returned this year after international travel restrictions and a Tier 2 lockdown in London meant last year’s event had to be shifted online
Crowds will gather at the base of the tree for a lighting ceremony on Thursday at 6pm. Pictured: Workers put the finishing touches to the Tree ahead of the lighting ceremony
For the first time ever, Trafalgar Square will also host a ticketed New Year event this year after London’s New Year fireworks display was scrapped due to Covid uncertainty.
Trafalgar Square will be the setting for a ticketed celebration event, including live music, stage performers, food stalls and a large screen showing the live broadcast.
Tickets to the event on New Year’s Eve, which is subject to licensing application approval, will be awarded to applicants through a lottery, or ballot, system.
There will also be a broadcast shown live exclusively on BBC One and BBC iPlayer, celebrating the capital and highlight the defining moments of 2021.
The programme will include a special live choir, and look ahead to the best of 2022 – including London hosting the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 amongst other highlights.
The uncertainty caused by the pandemic, particularly around mass gatherings, has meant that London’s usual fireworks event was cancelled.
Sadiq Khan said: ‘This year, as well as a brand-new celebration event in Trafalgar Square, we can look forward to a live broadcast spectacular which will showcase our magnificent city on BBC One.
‘London is simply magical during these winter months and after all we have endured as a city we have every reason to celebrate as we look ahead to the new year.’