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Strasbourg’s Christmas Tree: the story behind the magic
Strasbourg is awash with light and colour during the festive season, with miles and miles of fairy lights adorning the city’s streets. The Christmas Tree at Place Kléber is the star of the show – almost stealing the limelight from the imposing Cathedral nearby. And the stunning tree is the backdrop to millions of selfies.
Here, we look at the story behind the magic, giving you the facts and figures, explaining how it’s erected, and exploring its sumptuous decorations.
30 metres. That’s the minimum height of the tree. It weighs between 7 and 9 tonnes. Its trunk measures up to 120 cm in diameter. Henri-Pierre Gangloff, head of the production unit at France’s National Forestry Office (ONF), drives hundreds of miles through the forests of Alsace, Moselle and the Vosges Mountains in search of a rare gem. He starts his search in March each year. This year’s Christmas Tree comes from the Donon area of Lorraine.
120 man-hours. That’s how long the ONF and its tree surgeons spend getting the tree ready for its trip to Strasbourg. The first task is to cut down the vast tree to size and place it on the trailer, using two cranes – one each side of the tree – weighing 100 and 50 tonnes. The tree is affixed to the cranes before being felled to stop it toppling over. The hardest part of the process is getting it onto the trailer without causing too much damage – a painstaking task that takes a good two hours to complete. Then, each branch is carefully folded down and tied to the trunk so the tree can be transported into the city.
180 branches from other trees are hand-picked by the ONF. Between 50 and 80 of these branches are implanted onto the tree to give it a fuller appearance – a meticulous task that’s completed once the tree has been erected in Strasbourg. The ONF spends 250 man-hours on preparing the tree, which it gifts free of charge to Strasbourg City Council.
7 kilometres of twinkling fairy lights will adorn the Christmas Tree this year, along with more than 300 flashing lights, around 40 vast baubles (65 cm) featuring golden stars, and 180 illuminated angels, biscuits, candles, apples and stars.
240 illuminated cherubs, 200 twinkling bouquets and 400 gold and red baubles will be hung from the tree at Place Kléber, creating a stunning display of lights.
Three questions for Romaric Gusto from Sigmatech, the firm in charge of decorating the Christmas Tree
Is decorating a big tree just the same as doing your tree at home?You have to take account of the shape of the tree, just like you would at home. The first step is to install the fairy lights, wrapping them around each branch of the tree. Next, you add the other decorations. Then you step back to make sure there aren’t any gaps or similar decorations too close together. The difference with a big tree, though, is that you have a tree climber 30 metres in the air, talking to someone on the ground using a walkie-talkie or a mobile phone. So it takes a lot more people and equipment to work on a tree of this size. importants.
How do you go about installing fairy lights on a 30-metre Christmas tree?
You need two climbers (or as we call them, squirrels), a dozen electricians, eight landscape designers, two 40-metre-tall cherry pickers and dozens of metres of fairy lights. It takes three weeks to complete the work.
What theme have you chosen for this year’s decorations?
Christmas of yesteryear. The decorations are inspired by local traditions, using apple, candle and bredele motifs to create a contemporary scene with a stunning visual impact. Sparkling red and gold will be the dominant colours.