Brno Christmas

Christmas tree: From the forest to Freedom Square

This year, the Christmas tree on Freedom Square will be an 18-metre silver fir coming, as is tradition, from a Mendel University forest near Bílovice nad Svitavou.

Tree with two stories

People often wish for the Christmas tree to be perfectly straight, tall enough, not missing any branches, in short: without any flaws. For trees growing in the forest, such symmetry is hard to achieve as they don’t grow solitarily in a garden, but among other trees in a forest and so don’t have the chance to grow evenly, and sometimes a branch is simply missing or unsightly. This year’s fir is estimated to be 50 years old and its beauty comes from its naturalness, from everything it’s gone through, from what it’s weathered for so many years. That is its first story.

And the second? That one explains why every year the Christmas tree comes from this university forest. It’s connected to a touching piece of history from 1919, when author Rudolf Těsnohlídek saved a girl left in the forest near Bílovice nad Svitavou. This event affected him and he was considering how to further help abandoned children. On a visit to Copenhagen, he noticed a decorated tree and brought this tradition back here. In 1924, his idea came to life for the first time and the Brno square was decorated with the first public Christmas tree from a forest.

Thanks to the collection for charity that took place under the tree, a children’s home was built in Brno in subsequent years based on designs by Bohuslav Fuchs. It opened in 1929 and was named after Queen Dagmar of Denmark, famed for her care for the poor. Collections are still made under the Christmas tree today, organized by the Czech Red Cross.

The first in the country and in Central Europe

The first-ever public Christmas tree was lit in 1912 in New York, the first in Europe in 1914 in Copenhagen, and the first in this country, and probably the first in Central Europe, in Brno in 1924. The tradition of Christmas trees on squares spread in 1926 to Pilsen and later to Prague.

Dokument České televize o Vánočním stromu republiky zde.

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