Photo: Kaupo Kalda
Photo: Sergei Zjuganov

    O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree...

    How lovely are thy branches! Christmas wouldn't be the same without the majestic and beautiful Christmas tree. 
    We don't really know for sure, where does the tradition of Christmas tree originate from. But, what we do know, is that Tallinn was the first place to have a public modern Christmas tree in Europe.

    The tradition of public Christmas tree goes back all the way to 1441 when the Brotherhood of Black Heads put a Christmas tree up on Tallinn Town Hall Square

    Historian Jüri Kuuskemaa has investigated the matter in the city archive and found an official document from 1441. The document states that the city council had paid for musicians who played music by the tree on Town Hall Square on the 25th of December.

    So when you walk towards the lush Christmas tree in Tallinn Town Hall Square this Christmas, you are taking part of traditions that are centuries old. Because it is so old, it has also become very important for the people of Tallinn.

    View of the Christmas market including the Christmas tree and carrousel on the Town Hall Square in the Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia. Photo: Jake Farra
    Photo: Jake Farra

    Looking for the right one

    The Christmas tree in Tallinn Christmas Market is not just any tree. It has gone through a tight selection process before it has got the honour to become the most important Christmas tree in Estonia.

    Each September the Tallinn City Centre administration announces a contest for the spruces and firs of Northern Estonia. It is one of the most anticipated contests in Estonia and followed in local news media.

    The Christmas tree should be between 15 and 18 meters long, symmetrical and have dense leaves. To help get to the tree, the tree should grow in an open place and far from electric wires. Usually, the competition is open to all trees closer than 150 kilometres from Tallinn, but this year every tree from each corner of Estonia is welcome to run for Tallinn Christmas tree.

    The time to nominate trees for candidates to Tallinn Christmas tree goes on until the end of September. A special committee of experts will choose the winning tree and the winner will be announced in November just before the tree is brought to the Town Hall Square.

    The Christmas tree is brought to Tallinn Town Hall Square by, no-one else but the one and only Santa Claus himself. While the tree is being put up, Santa meets and greets with fans and shares candy.

    The Christmas tree arrives at the Town Hall Square usually a bit before the opening of the Christmas Market. For the opening of the Christmas Market, the Christmas tree will have gotten its' decorations. At the opening ceremony, the beautiful tree will be lit and the joyful season of Christmas has officially begun.

    Girl at the Chrismas Market on th Town Hall Square in Tallinn, Estonia Photo: Simon Snopek
    Photo: Simon Snopek

    Tallinn Christmas trees from the last years

    The Christmas tree of 2019 is again from Tallinn. The majestic spruce was standing in Haabersti district, on Rõika Street.

    The Christmas tree of 2018 is from Tallinn. Though the competition was open for all the trees in whole Estonia, the most suitable spruce was standing in Kristiine district, just a few kilometres from the medieval Town Hall Square.

    The tree was a 150 years-old spruce from the lands of Saare family in Vääna-Jõesuu 30 kilometres from Tallinn. In 2017 there were 14 candidates for the Christmas tree, but none of the trees filled all  the demands so the committee chose the tree among the candidates of 2016.

    Christmas tree of 2016 came from Raplamaa, Liivapõllu farm 100 kilometres from Tallinn. The tree was 6-7 meters shorter than the tallest Christmas tree of all times, but it was extremely dense and beautiful.
    The Christmas tree of 2015 was 20 meters tall and came from Nõmme farm in Pala village, approximately 80 kilometres from Tallinn. It was chosen from 8 candidates.

    The 23 meters-long tree came from Pahkla village, 40 kilometres from Tallinn. The winning tree didn't take part in the contest but was discovered by the personnel of Tallinn City Centre administration on a special tree searching task.

    Tallinn Christmas Market in the Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia Photo: Simon Snopek
    Photo: Simon Snopek

    Estonian Christmas trees

    For some Estonians, the Christmas tree at the Town Hall Square is the only Christmas tree and they choose not to have a Christmas tree at their home. Still, there are many, who want to have a tree inside during the holidays.

    Each year approximately 10 000 trees are being brought from Estonian forests inside to Christmas trees. Estonian State Forest Management Centre has developed a mobile application that helps Estonians to search for suitable Christmas trees and locate them on a map. 

    The app helps people find the trees that you can cut down without harming  nature and gives you tips on how to take care of the tree. The trees are not free of charge, but it is easy to pay for the tree straight from the app. The State Forest Management Centre also encourages people to plant a couple of new trees each year.

    The traditional Christmas tree is a spruce, decorated with real candles and ornaments. Today the range of Christmas trees is wide. There are as many different kinds of Christmas trees as there are homes. Trees can be artificial or real ones or just a few branches in a vase. Real candles have been replaced by electronic ones. Ornaments can be hand-made or bought from the store.

    Stores have a large selection of all kinds of decorations for Christmas trees. If you want a nice souvenir to hang to your Christmas tree just step to any of the Estonian design and handicraft stores or department stores. A good contemporary selection is available at Shishi interior decorations store in the new Noblessner area.

    Sparkling birds and other Paradise-themed Christmas decorations by Shishi in the St Nicholas (Niguliste) Church in Tallinn, Estonia  Photo: Kadi-Liis Koppel
    Photo: Kadi-Liis Koppel

    Sing a song for the prettiest tree

    You most likely have heard some version of the traditional German Christmas song “O Tannenbaum” that we cited in the beginning. Here are the Estonian lyrics to the first verse, so you can learn and sing along.

    Oh kuusepuu, oh kuusepuu,
    kui haljad on su oksad!
    Ei mitte üksi suisel a’al,
    vaid talvel ka siin külmal maal.
    Oh kuusepuu, oh kuusepuu,
    kui haljad on su oksad!

    Aerial view of the fairy-tale-like Christmas market on the Town Hall Square of the Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia. Photo: Kaupo Kalda
    Photo: Kaupo Kalda