Are British-Norwegian Relations Under Threat?

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Are British-Norwegian Relations Under Threat?

The annual gift of a Christmas Tree from Norway is a symbol of friendship.

However, this year it has faced major backlash and criticism from the public.

What Is the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree? 

According to the Mayor of London website, Britain has received a Christmas tree from Norway annually since 1947. It is a gift of friendship and a symbol of gratitude for Britain’s support during World War II. The tree is usually a “Norwegian spruce (Picea abies) over 20 metres high and 50-60 years old”. 

2014 government publication quoted the then Lord Mayor of Westminster as saying:“For many Londoners, the tree going up in Trafalgar Square symbolises the real beginning of the Christmas season and it is one of the first things we think about if you mention Norway any time in the year.” 

As the tradition has continued, it has changed slightly with the times. At present, a representative from Oslo and London meet in a Norwegian forest to select a tree. NPR reported that this year Oslo Mayor, Marianne Borgen, and Lord Mayor of Westminster, Ruth Bush, made the selection. They were joined by Richard Wood, British Ambassador to Norway, and numerous students. 

The tree remains in Trafalgar Square until just before the 12th Night of Christmas. Usually, it is taken down 5 or 6 January. After that, it is recycled to become mulch. 

What Happened This Year?

This year the lighting ceremony took place on 5 December. And while the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree’s official twitter was thrilled, some communicated their discontent. 

As many news outlets have reported, Twitter has seen some complaints about this year’s tree. One tweet states: “Well that looks pathetic. I remember when Trafalgar Square had decent Christmas trees.” Another says: “That’s the most raggedy ass Christmas Tree I’ve ever seen.” However, what followed was a flood of support for the tree. One comments: “How ungrateful, mean and hurtful some people in the UK have become… This is how a real ‘forest’ tree looks.”

The British Ambassador to Norway, Richard Wood, also defended the tree stating:“This is what 90-year-old, 25m trees in the wild look like,” and “It is important to consider the symbolism of the tree rather than simply how many branches it has”. This is not the first time the tree has faced ridicule. According to TimeOut, in 2016 people were comparing it to a cucumber, and wondering the same thing: is Norway mad at the UK? 

Is Norway Mad at the UK? 

The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree endures a rigorous process to be chosen. The Telegraph states:“Only one in 20 potential trees will make the cut and are found suitable to be the next Christmas tree to London”. Moreover, this particular tree was singled out a decade ago as a possibility, receiving special treatment since. Therefore, it is unlikely that Norway’s anger would be reflected in the choice of the Christmas tree. 

The tension between the UK and EU over Brexit doesn’t extend to Norway. This is due to Norway not being a member state. The Local, a Norwegian publication reported that in 2017 the then British Ambassador to Norway, Sarah Gillett’s stated the UK would maintain a strong relationship with Norway post-Brexit. Gillett outlined:“Some 70 per cent of Norway’s trade is with the EU, but the UK is Norway’s largest market, and Norway the UK’s most important energy supplier”. Meaning that Norway is an incredibly important trade partner, and the UK government will go to great lengths to foster this relationship and prevent possible tension that would be reflected in “Sparse spruce.”