“Hamburg” Christmas Tree Lit at Reykjavík Harbor Skip to content

“Hamburg” Christmas Tree Lit at Reykjavík Harbor

The lights of the so-called “Hamburg” Christmas tree at the harbor in Reykjavík will be lit on Saturday. For the past 44 years the tree has been sent from Hamburg, Germany, and the German tradition will prevail even though the tree is Icelandic this year.

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The Christmas tree in central Reykjavík. Copyright: icelandreview.com.

In the past decades, the association Wikingerrunde in Hamburg has donated the tree as a token of gratitude to Icelandic trawler fishermen. However, as the association has mostly ceased operating, it was decided not to send a tree to Iceland this year, Morgunbladid reports.

This year’s tree comes from Borgarfjördur, west Iceland, and standing ten meters high it is just as grand as its predecessors from Hamburg.

But, “we are going to hold on to the tradition and name because it is a beautiful ceremony,” said Ágúst Ágústsson, marketing director of Faxaflóahafnir, which operates the harbor.

Even though there won’t be any honorary guests from Hamburg this year, German Ambassador to Iceland Hermann J. Sausen will present greetings from the city and the German-Icelandic Trade Council and members of the German Association of Iceland, who have helped with preparations, will gather around the tree.

Ágústsson urges capital residents to come along as well and participate in the ceremony; those who had part in exporting fish to Germany in the years after World War II are especially welcome.

The story of the Hamburg tree can be traced back to when Icelandic fishermen sailed with fish to post-war Germany, which was suffering from unemployment and a shortage of food.

“They had fish soup which they made and donated to the people,” Ágústsson described, explaining that queues had formed at the harbor in Hamburg when foreign vessels docked there.

In 1965, Hermann Schlünz and Werner Hoenig of the Wikingerrunde association started the Hamburg tree tradition when they decided to thank Icelandic fishermen for their kindness by sending a Christmas tree to Reykjavík.

A children’s choir will perform carols at the lighting ceremony on Saturday and visitors can have hot chocolate and Christmas treats at the invitation of Faxaflóahafnir. The ceremony begins at 5 pm at the Midbakki pier.

Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent, which marks the beginning of the Christmas season in Iceland. The Christmas tree in Akureyri will also be lit on Saturday and Sunday the tree on Austurvöllur, the parliamentary square in Reykjavík, will be lit.

In Hafnarfjördur, a neighboring town of Reykjavík, the annual Christmas village and market opens on Saturday and will be open every weekend until Christmas; the final day is December 23.

Click here to watch an audio slideshow from the Christmas village.

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