Look North More Often: The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree 

It’s probably the most famous Christmas tree in the world, and its lighting-up ceremony has come to signify the beginning of the Christmas season in the British capital. A specially commissioned new poem is at the heart of the celebrations.

This year’s poem is entitled 'How I’ll Decorate My Tree' and was read at the official lighting up ceremony by three children from St Mary of the Angels Primary School, London Borough of Westminster, at 6pm on Thursday 4th December. A banner displaying the poem surrounds the base of the tree from 5th December until 5th January.

The Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square is the City of Oslo’s annual gift to the people of London, a tradition that dates back to 1947. Since 2009, the Poetry Society has worked with the Royal Norwegian Embassy in London to create a poetry project inspired by the tree, which is now established as a central part of the tradition.

A free poetry resource pack for teachers is available upon request. You can also download a teaching resource from Liz Lochhead at our Poetryclass resources page.

Look North More Often 2014 was supported by The Northbank.

History

Since the inaugural project in 2009, the famous Norwegian Christmas Tree displayed each Christmas in Trafalgar Square has been celebrated through poetry as part of a collaboration between the Poetry Society, the Mayor of Oslo’s Office and the Norwegian Embassy.

A Norwegian Christmas tree has been given annually to the people of London since 1947, as a symbol of peace and friendship, in recognition of British support during World War II.

An extensive education project has seen poets going into primary schools each year to encourage new writing inspired by the gift of the tree. Poets and schoolchildren follow the progress of the giant spruce tree at each stage of its journey – from its felling in a forest on the outskirts of Oslo to its arrival at the Lincolnshire port of Immingham, and on to Trafalgar Square. The children’s poems are then used to inspire a new poem, written by a different poet each year, which is displayed on banners around the tree throughout the Christmas period.

Previous poems include:

Tree Song by Kit Wright, 2009
Green Magi by John Agard, 2010
Roots by Roger McGough, 2011
The Kindness of Trees by Jackie Kay, 2012
Decorating the Tree by Kevin Crossley-Holland, 2013
How I'll Decorate My Tree by Liz Lochhead, 2014

Further poems, listed below, were commissioned as part of the project:

Growing a Tree – by Immingham schoolchildren with Kevin Crossley-Holland in 2010
Gerd – by Norwegian poet Nordahl Grieg, in a new version by Philip Gross in 2010.

For more information contact Robyn Donaldson, Marketing Coordinator, on marketing@poetrysociety.org.uk  or call the Poetry Society on 020 7420 9880.