The traditional Christmas tree, from Latvia this year, took up residence on Brussels’ Grand Place at 3 am on Thursday morning. It was moved by crane and standing tall by 8 am. The 18.3m-high spruce was chosen by they mayor of Riga Nils Ušakovs. It was cut down in a Latvian forest on Friday and shipped across the sea on Saturday to arrive in the German port of Liepaja Travemünde. A special convoy then transported it to Antwerp. It was set in one of the three wells, over 2-meters deep, beneath the cobblestones of the Grand Place.
The city’s Christmas trees usually come from the Walloon region, but this year Riga insisted, as 2014 European Capital of Culture, on gifting the capital of Europe with a Christmas tree. “Latvia will chair the EU during the first quarter of 2015,” added Inga Barisa, Riga representative for the European Union. “So it’s wonderfully symbolic for Latvia to close this 2014 year of European culture and open the presidency with this Christmas tree in Brussels”.
Legend has it that the tradition of decorating a Christmas tree was borne in Riga. “In the early 1500s, children decorated the tree which, as was the tradition of the time, was then set on fire.” says Inga Barisa.
By the start of the weekend, the tree will have been decorated according to Latvian cultural heritage, with silver coins, by a Latvian decorator. Additionally, some 7,000 twinkling lights and 10,000 white lights will grace the tree.