The Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree

Coral Rumble with three pupils from St Mary of the Angels Primary School, Reinfrancis Bondoc, Poppy-Beau Pawsey and Fabio Cucinotta, practising this year’s poem ‘The Christmas Pine’ by Julia Donaldson. Photo: Leo Cinicolo

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. 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.

Poetry from workshops in Westminster primary schools is presented each year to one of the UK’s best children’s poets. Their task is to produce a new poem celebrating the gift of the tree from the Mayor of Oslo. The poem is read out at the official lighting up ceremony and displayed around the base of the tree.

Each year, The Poetry Society commissions a new poet to create the poem that will decorate the base of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree. Previous poets include Joseph Coelho, A.F. Harrold, Julia CopusIan McMillan, Liz Lochhead and Kevin Crossley-Holland.  

2020

In 2020, Julia Donaldson wrote ‘The Christmas Pine’, inspired by the journey of the tree from Oslo to London. You can read it here, and see it on a banner designed by Marcus Walters on the tree in Trafalgar Square throughout the festive period.

After a day of writing and performing workshops with poet Coral Rumble, three children from St Mary of the Angels Primary School, London, premiered the poem at the first ever virtual lighting up ceremony of the Christmas tree on 3 December 2020. You can watch Reinfrancis Bondoc, Poppy-Beau Pawsey and Fabio Cucinotta performing ‘The Christmas Pine’ below.

Watch the whole 2020 lighting up ceremony back here:

2019

Clare Pollard wrote the 2019 Christmas tree poem, entitled ‘The Gift’, inspired by thoughts and images from children at Hampden Gurney, St Stephen’s, Our Lady of Dolours, St Matthew’s and St Peter’s C of E Primary School.

Three children from St Peter’s brought the poem to life at the ceremony, and ‘The Gift’ now will now decorate the base of the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree until 6 January 2020.

Mayor of Oslo, Marianne Borgen, with the children who read at this year’s ceremony. Photo: Hayley Madden for The Poetry Society.

2018

The Christmas Tree poem ‘Look Into My Lights’ was written by poet Joseph Coelho and read by three children from St Clement Danes Primary School. 

2017

The Christmas Tree poem was written by A.F. Harrold.  You can download A.F. Harrold’s teaching resource, written to accompany the poem. A free poetry resource pack for teachers is available upon request from [email protected].

Find fuller history of Look North More Often here, and more teaching resources here.