“O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging.” Or so the lyrics of the popular Christmas carol go. But Christmas trees around the world are no longer traditional evergreen firs. Instead, they’ve taken on unique and diverse forms, with variation in color, size and shape.
Some aren’t even trees at all.
The Christmas tradition of decorating a tree is believed to have its roots in pagan and Christian winter celebrations, where fir tree branches were used to decorate homes to remind people of spring, or as a symbol of “everlasting life.”
While there were a number of forms of early Christmas trees, the first recorded appearance of a Christmas tree in a town square is said to date back to 15th or 16th century Latvia. Townsfolk are said to have danced around the trees before setting them on fire.
Now, Christmas trees are commonplace in town centers, with cities around the world keen to put on a show with their impressive trees — and this year is no exception. From Moscow to Madrid to Melbourne, here are some of the world’s most spectacular Christmas trees.
The tree in Puerta del Sol in the Spanish capital of Madrid stands brightly, the blue and green neon lights illuminating the city plaza. Meanwhile, a tree in Moscow can be seen reflected in a nearby stainless steel sculpture by artist Gregory Orekhov.
Dortmund, in Germany, claims to have the world’s largest Christmas tree. The 147-foot-tall tree is covered in some 48,000 lights.
The tree in Strasbourg is a feature of the city’s Christmas market, which is said to be one of the largest and one of the oldest Christmas markets in France.
Christmas comes to Washington D.C., with “snow-dusted” trees inside the White House, and a massive tree erected outside the Capitol building.
Everyone from royalty to celebrities seem to get in on the act. The Queen of England has a lavishly decorated 20-foot tree put up in Windsor Castle, while queen of pop Gwen Stefani was caught striking a pose in front of the Empire State Building’s annual tree.
Paris went with a statement all-white tree this year at the Place de la Concorde. The City of Lights lived up to its name with this illuminated tree, as well as many other decorative Christmas lights throughout the city.
A 118-foot Giant Redwood tree stands over Wakehurst Place in Haywards Heath, England. The tree was decorated with 1800 low-energy lamps, so it’s no surprise the tree can be seen by pilots as they fly overhead towards Gatwick Airport.
A more abstract form of Christmas tree is that which appears in front of the V & A Museum in London. Composed of a “cloud of floating words," the tree forms part a month-long festive music-themed program at the museum.