A huge Christmas tree will herald the arrival of the festive season (someone ought to tell the supermarkets they started early) when it is lit by the Mayor of Oslo, the Mayor of Westminster and the Norwegian Ambassador at 6pm on December 4 in London's living room, Trafalgar Square. Carols from the Salvation Army and St Martin-in-the-Fields choir will add to the atmosphere.
On December 7 a torch-lit procession will surround the choir and clergy of St Martin-in-the-Fields church as they bless a specially commissioned crib (5.30pm). The crib itself features figures inspired by London's diverse population, and will remain on display throughout December.
Carols will be sung beneath the Christmas tree for four hours every day from Dec 8 until Dec 23, with more than 50 carol groups taking part. Performances take place from 4pm-8pm on weekdays and 2pm-6pm on weekends.
The tree itself is a kind of charity: it's an annual gift from the Norwegians to the British. During WWII, German troops besieged Norway and in 1940 the neutral country was forced to surrender to the Nazis. Its royal family, government and defence chiefs fled to London, where they established a government-in-exile. For almost five years they were given refuge here while Norwegian soldiers fought alongside the Allies. London came to represent hope and freedom for millions in occupied Norway, for whom British radio broadcasts provided news and information vital to the resistance. That's why the people of Oslo still each year give London a tree described by woodsmen as 'the queen of the forest'. Over 20m in height, and 50 or 60 years old, the Norwegian spruce is felled in November in the midst of a snowy forest in a special ceremony with local schoolchildren singing, before being shipped across the North Sea for installation in Trafalgar Square.
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