A Norwegian spruce stands at the center of London’s Trafalgar Square on Wednesday. Many are calling this year’s tree — a gift from Oslo — meager and sparse.
O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree. How lovely are thy branches.
Those are the lyrics to a popular Christmas carol about a tree so wondrous it roused musicians to write an entire song about its green boughs and unchanging leaves. But this year, one London Christmas tree isn’t exactly inspiring people to burst into holiday carols.
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The Norwegian city of Oslo has given a Christmas tree to decorate Trafalgar Square in Central London since 1947 and it is a popular attraction during the holiday season. City officials call the usually majestic specimen Britain’s “most famous Christmas tree.”
However, the spruce that was erected this week disappointed onlookers who described it as sparse, anemic and sad. One person asked the tree’s Twitter account, “Is that a joke?”
This year, the 90-year-old tree stands about 80 feet tall, according to its official Twitter. From certain angles, it looks like a normal Christmas spruce; in other angles, it looks droopy and uneven on one side, almost as if a painter gave up halfway through a painting. The branches point in different directions, many of them sprouting needles in inconsistent patches.
Several have joked that the state of the tree mirrors budget cuts and Brexit complications. One person wondered what his country had done to deserve such a tree.
“Not sure what we did to upset the Norwegians but they seem to have saved their best and bushiest trees for everyone else,” Calum Mulligan tweeted.
Feedback hasn’t been completely negative. Some chose to look on the brighter side and complimented the tree.
“The @trafalgartree looks lovely in my humble opinion and will look even more magical once the lights are switched on tomorrow night,” Farooq Mulla tweeted Wednesday.
Supporters have also reminded naysayers of what the tree is meant to symbolize. During World War II, the Norwegian king and his family fled to the United Kingdom after Nazi Germany invaded their country.
“The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree is a gift from the Norwegian people as a thank you for London’s aid during WW2 against tyranny. They have continued to send a tree as a symbol of our enduring friendship,” officials said.
Now, representatives from Oslo and London meet yearly in a Norwegian forest to celebrate their relationship and choose a tree to cut down. This year, Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen and Lord Mayor of Westminster Ruth Bush were joined by dozens of students as they made their pick.
Trafalgar’s Christmas Tree has drawn comparisons to a similar event in Italy. Nicknamed Spelacchio — roughly “mangy” or “balding” in Italian — a tree in the center of Rome received international mockery for its beleaguered appearance. Some went as far as to compare it to a toilet brush.
Paolo Zialcita is an intern on NPR’s News Desk.