'Tis the season to creep about the attic hunting down a box no-one bothered to write 'Xmas' on 12 months ago. Traditionally, this is followed by the much-loved 'it looks squint to me' debate; a long, sour silence over whose responsibility it was to check the lights BEFORE they went on the tree; and, my particular favourite, competitive bauble re-positioning.
If this sounds familiar and festive cheer isn't flooding your heart at the thought, remember there are people all over the world paid to decorate trees. They've got spirit-levels, ladders, plans and usually work in fairly affable teams without personal grudges, too much wine and an irritating, jingly soundtrack. Here are a few of their best efforts for Christmas 2013 - in no particular order (except for Oslo for reasons that will quickly become apparent).
Almost every city has a Norwegian Christmas tree - the big one in Trafalgar Square is being delivered by the Mayor of Oslo himself this year. So it never fails to surprise me that the city's own spruce is always quite restrained. But what Oslo's tree lacks in tawdry glamour it more than makes up for in perfect symmetry, a gorgeous setting and free cookies on lighting-up day.
Lights on 1400-1700 from 30 November 2013, Youngsterget, Oslo
Did someone mention Le Noël? Since even a whisper of the word is enough to bring the insanely competitive Parisians out in full force you won't be surprised to learn that the Champs Elysees has gone all out with 200 Christmas trees this year. Lining the Champs from La Place de la Concorde to L'Arc de Triomphe, they're lit and floodlit every night until 0200 and all night on 31 December.
Lights dusk to 0200 until 9 January 2014, Champs Elysees, Paris
Spain's capital is traditional about Christmas in everything, except the tree. This year's is 12 storeys high and created completely in glass and metal by workers who look like tiny tree elves during the construction process. It's on the Puerta del Sol in the city centre so when it comes to lights there's a lot going on.
Lights on from 29 November 2013, Puerta del Sol, Madrid
The Rockefeller Plaza Christmas tree has been a New York City icon since 1931 when the Plaza's construction crew put up the original and decorated it with tin cans and paper. This year's tree is a 76ft high Norwegian Spruce from Connecticut and the decorations are considerably less austere. When it's taken down on 7 January the timber will be milled and used for low-cost housing.
Lights on from 4 December 2013, Rockefeller Plaza, New York City
Vienna clearly couldn't wait to get all festive because its tree was up and lit on November 16th. But don't let that deter you from visiting the city over Christmas. Because what Vienna loses in unseemly tree-lighting haste, it more than makes up for in other fine traditions like music, markets, skating, snow, shopping and lots of hot chocolate - lots!
Already lit, Rathausplatz, Vienna
The 'Big' Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square could fight the one on Rockefeller Plaza for 'most famous in the world' title - if Christmas trees did that kind of thing. This year, as always, the tree's from Norway and the lighting-up ceremony on 5 December is the perfect excuse for a bit of pre-Christmas partying.
Lights on 5 December, Trafalgar Square, London
Edinburgh's 20 tonne tree traditionally stands on The Mound and again, it's a gift from Norway (you've got to wonder what the Norwegians are getting out of all this). The tree was lit on 22 November to mark the start of the city's huge Christmas and New Year celebrations, including the annual Hogmanay party with the UK's largest outdoor ceilidh.
Already lit, The Mound, Edinburgh
Dublin streets started lighting up for Christmas from the middle of November and didn't care what anyone said. But the city's Christmas tree on O'Connell Street wasn't lit until the 24th - positively tardy by Irish standards. Dublin also upholds a nice tradition of community tree-lighting celebrations, as good an excuse for a party as any, I say.
Already Lit, O'Connell Street, Dublin
In the spirit of Christmas rebellion, Amsterdam's traditional Dam Square tree comes from Germany - not Norway. This year's is over 20 metres tall with 4km of lights using 40,000 energy-saving LED bulbs. There's always an element of surprise about the arrival of the Dam Square tree, but since Amsterdam's entire theme for 2013 was 'Building with Light' there's plenty to see while you wait.
Already lit, Dam Square, Amsterdam
Prague's Christmas tree in the Old Town Square is a home-grown giant surrounded by quite possibly the quaintest market in Europe this year. If I say, 'real' nativity just go with it and think goats, sheep, cattle, crib, baby, the lot. There are dozens of stalls selling cold-weather snacks (snow and sausages, yes please) and they're all open till late, even on Christmas Day. And Prague is freezing, so be prepared for much seasonal prettiness.
Already lit, Old Town Square, Prague
Ten cities with ten trees, all fully decorated by someone else and not a pine needle to sweep-up as far as the eye can see - I feel almost as generous as Norway this Christmas.
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