YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images
YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

15 Cool Christmas Trees From Around the World

YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images
YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

Christmas trees are everywhere this time of year—in the mall, in the town square, in your living room. However, some cities around the world get creative and jettison the idea of what a traditional holiday tree looks like. After seeing the following 15 trees, you’ll never look at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree the same way again.

1. FLOATING TREE // RIO DE JANEIRO

In the summer of 2016, Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas’s lagoon in Rio de Janeiro was the site of the Olympic rowing competitions, but in the winter it houses a 27-story Christmas tree weighing 542 tons. Every minute, the nearly 3 million lights (75 miles worth) change colors. The tree appears to float above the lagoon, because it's attached to 11 floats. During the weekends, the lagoon sets off fireworks and creates a carnival atmosphere around the tree.

2. GODZILLA TREE // TOKYO

In 2011, Aqua City Odaiba mall in Tokyo created a Godzilla-shaped tree, replete with glowing red eyes and steam billowing out of its mouth. ‘Zilla donned a Santa hat and had white lights strewn all over its green body. If the tree actually came to life, the mall—and Tokyo—would be in deep trouble.

3. LEGO TREES // WINDSOR, ENGLAND; SYDNEY

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Every holiday season, LEGOLAND in Windsor, Berkshire, England, builds its resort tree out of LEGOs as part of its Christmas Bricktacular celebration. The 26-foot tree is made from 300,000 LEGO bricks and takes four weeks to build. In 2015, an angel made from 4550 LEGO bricks topped the tree. Over in Sydney, in 2014, a LEGO tree was displayed in Pitt Street Mall. It was built from half a million LEGO bricks, weighed 3.5 tons, towered at 32 feet, and took 1200 hours to amass, becoming the largest LEGO Christmas tree in the Southern Hemisphere. But the largest LEGO Christmas tree ever award goes to London's St Pancras Station, whose 2011 tree measured 40 feet in height.

4. POINTE SHOES TREE // LONDON

Each winter, the English National Ballet performs The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum. For the 2015 season, dancer Amber Hunt had a brainstorm. “It all started by people asking me how many pairs of shoes dancers would use in a year,” she said. Turns out, it took 40 hours to stack 588 pointe shoes into the shape of a tree. “We had to drill over 1000 holes into the shoes so we could tie and hold them together on wires, and then we plated all the ribbons around the tree,” Hunt said. “We also added a pointe shoe star at the top.” It took 40 hours to complete the project.

5. EMIRATES PALACE HOTEL // ABU DHABI

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In 2010, the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi created what’s supposedly the world’s most expensive Christmas tree. The artificial tree cost only $10,000, but the jewels that decorated it bumped the tree’s value to $11 million. Necklaces and earrings adorned the tree: 181 diamonds, pearls, emeralds, and sapphires. This year, though, the hotel’s gone back to a more subdued (a.k.a. jewel-free) tree.

6. GOLD DISNEY TREE // TOKYO

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Not quite as expensive as the Dubai tree, in 2012 jewelry store Ginza Tanaka in Tokyo offered for sale a “tree” containing 88 pounds of gold, that stood eight feet high and three feet in diameter. The store hired 10 craftsmen to create 50 gold cutouts of Disney characters that were engraved on the tree like ornaments. The whole tree, which was created to celebrate Walt Disney's 110th birthday, was worth 350 million yen, or $4.2 million.

7. CHURCHILL ARMS TREES // LONDON

During the spring and summer, the Churchill Arms pub in Kensington, London—which pays respect to Winston Churchill—covers its rooftop, windows, and exterior pub with an overwhelming array of 90 flowers and plants, like an unwieldy garden. For the holidays, though, they exhibit a swath of pine trees—80 to be exact. Several years ago they started with 30 trees, but this year have a record 80 trees and 18,000 lights. The pub’s interior is also filled with a lot of Christmas decorations, and random objects hanging from the ceiling. In 2013, Arms manager Gerry O’Brien told Daily Mail, “There’s no room for any more [trees],” but he apparently found more space.

8. MOUNT INGINO TREE // GUBBIO, ITALY

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Since 1981, instead of assembling one large tree, Gubbio, Umbria, Italy, has taken advantage of its trees on the slopes of Mount Ingino and outlined them with 300 green lights. The lighting display covers 130,000 square meters; the base is 450 meters wide and reaches 750 meters, or 2460 feet up the hillside. In recent years, Pope Benedict XVI has initiated the lighting ceremony remotely in Vatican City via an Android tablet.

9. UPSIDE-DOWN TREES // BOSTON

Liberty Hotel Boston/Facebook

The next best thing to an upright tree is an upside-down one. Every holiday season, the Liberty Hotel in Boston installs six inverted trees in its 90-foot rotunda lobby. The artful trees hang from beams, and are decorated with glowing lights.

10. CIRQUE DU SOLEIL TREE // LONDON

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In 2015, the St Pancras rail station/shopping center in London displayed a Christmas tree made from plush Disney toys, such as Mickey Mouse, Marie the cat from The Aristocats, and Dumbo. This year, the station presented a Cirque du Soleil tree as a means to raise money for Oxfam. The Amaluna Christmas Tree, which is named after Cirque’s show Amaluna (based on The Tempest), stands nearly 40 feet tall and includes a water bowl orb with moving underwater projections, showing bits of the show.

11. SHOPPING CART TREE // SANTA MONICA

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One of the more unusual trees, Santa Monica’s shopping cart Christmas tree is just that—a tree-shaped structure built from 86 carts that reach 33 feet. Anthony Schmitt founded the tradition in 1995 so he could communicate ideas of abundance, commercialism, and homelessness. The “tree” can be found on Main Street, in front of Edgemar, a mixed-used retail center.

12. ABSTRACT TREE // BRUSSELS

In 2012, Brussels's main square, La Grand Place, strayed from its customary pine Christmas tree and instead opted for something abstract—and controversial. The 78-foot tree was a light installation made out of steel-framed boxes. At night, the square treated people to a laser show. The cost of the tree was one-third less than a real tree, so it seemed like a win-win situation. But some people were outraged about the non-religious tree—named Xmas 3—with 25,000 people signing a petition to have it removed (it was taken down on December 28). “For people who want a traditional religious symbol, we have the nativity scene here in the square,” Brussels tourism councillor Philippe Close told the BBC. “For people who want modernity, we have this new tree.” Since then, La Grand Place has stuck with conventional trees.  

13. LOBSTER POT TREE // PROVINCETOWN

Provincetown, Massachusetts is home to a lot of lobsters, so it makes sense to use lobster pots to form a tree. Artist Julian Popko started the annual event 12 years ago when he borrowed lobster pots from local fisheries and displayed the tree in Lopes Square. Today, 112 lobster pots make up the two-story tree, which also contains 3400 LED lights, 120 red bows, and 46 plastic lobsters.

14. PUFF PASTRY TREE // JAKARTA

Being the “The World’s Tallest Choux Pastry Christmas Tree” seems like a strange accolade, but that’s how hotel The Park Lane Jakarta rolls. (MURI—the Indonesia World Records Museum—anointed the hotel the coveted title). Last year, Park Lane debuted the tree, made from 18,000 choux pastries (croquembouche). The tree stood 29 feet tall, and the hotel staff used more than 250 pounds of flour, 169 pounds of butter, 2112 eggs, and 12.6 pounds of sugar to make the pastries.

15. WINE GLASS TREE // SEATTLE


Kimpton Hotel Vintage Seattle/Facebook

The boutique-y Kimpton Hotel Vintage Seattle specializes in wine, with vineyard-themed rooms, vinos from local wineries, and, of course, a Christmas tree in the lobby constructed from wine glasses. The tree will probably make guests thirsty, so luckily the hotel hosts a daily wine reception for its guests, to squelch their thirst until they can reach Washington State's wine country, which is comprised of 700 wineries.

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Animals
Want to Recycle Your Christmas Tree? Feed It to an Elephant
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Sean Gallup/Getty Images

When the holiday season finally comes to a close, people get creative with the surplus of dead Christmas trees. One San Francisco-based artist transformed brittle shrubs into hanging installation pieces. Others use pine needles for mulch, or repurpose trees into bird sanctuaries. For the average person, sticking it into a wood chipper or "treecycling" it as part of a community program are all eco-friendly ways to say goodbye to this year's Douglas fir. None of these solutions, however, are as cute as the waste-cutting strategy employed by some zoos around the world: giving them to elephants.

Each year, zookeepers at Tierpark Berlin—a facility that bills itself as “Europe’s largest adventure animal park”—feed the elephants unsold pine trees. The plants are reportedly pesticide-free, and they serve as a good (albeit prickly) supplement to the pachyderms' usual winter diets.

A bit closer to home, the residents of The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee rely on local residents to take part in their annual Christmas Tree Drive. In addition to being nutrient-rich, the tree's needles are said to help aid in an elephant's digestion. But beyond all that, it's pretty adorable to watch.

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5 Eco-Friendly Ways to Dispose of Your Christmas Tree
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What’s the environmentally safest way to dispose of your Christmas tree? It’s hard to say. Grown, managed, transported, and recycled efficiently, a real Christmas tree’s environmental impact should be near neutral. Unfortunately, not all Christmas tree plantations are equal in their environmental impact.

The most eco-friendly way is to leave the tree in the ground, where it belongs, so you never have to dispose of it. But then you don't have a Christmas tree in your house to bring festive cheer. One thing you can do is be environmentally smart when it comes to the tree's disposal. After this festive season, why not try one of these eco-friendly methods.

1. CHIP IT.

If you’re lucky enough to have access to a big wood-chipper, you may be able to chip the entire tree. Wood-chip is great as a decorative landscaping material. But if you really want to do great things for the environment (and if you have access to a lot of Christmas trees), you could make a bioreactor to denitrify water. Nitrates are put on farms across the world to help increase crop output, but a considerable amount is washed away into lakes and rivers where it’s disastrous for fish and potentially toxic for people. A wood chip bioreactor encourages the growth of bacteria that break down the nitrates in the drainage water, reducing the amount that gets into the water supply. It's not a simple project, however. To make one, you have to dig a big trench, get the water to flow through said trench, and fill it with wood chips. More info can be found here [PDF].

2. CRAFT IT.


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If your tree hasn’t yet let go of its needles—and you haven’t yet let go of Christmas, get crafty with it. Cut off small branches and bind them around a circle of wire to make an attractive wreath. This looks even better if some of the cones are still attached. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could set up an essential oil extractor to get a supercharged Christmas scent. If you are already distilling alcohol, you have everything you need (here's how to do it). With a little less effort and equipment, you can make a weaker liquid called hydrosol, which is a fragrant condensate water containing water-soluble parts of the needles.

3. STICK IT.

Many legumes, such as garden peas, are thigmotropic, meaning that they respond to objects they touch, growing in coils along or up them. Needle-free Christmas tree branches have lots of twigs, texture, and knobby protrusions for peas and beans to get a grip on. This allows them to grow upwards strongly toward light. Simply stick a small tree branch in the soil next to each new shoot for a free, effective legume-climbing frame. Another advantage of this technique is that it makes grazing animals less likely to munch those tender green shoots, as they tend to avoid getting Christmas tree twigs spiked up their noses.

4. TREECYCLE IT.


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Come January, it’s cold, the festivities are over, work looms, and you’ve got too much on your mind to be thinking about dead Christmas tree horticulture or crafts. Fortunately, a simple solution is at hand: Most counties and municipalities now provide Christmas tree recycling points where you can take your tree for chipping. Some “TreeCycle” points will even exchange your tree for a bag of wood-chip or chip mulch. OK, this probably means that you’ll have to jam that Christmas tree into your car once more, but as long as you don’t have to drive too many miles out of your way, Christmas tree recycling is a quick and easy environmentally-friendly option.

5. DONATE IT.

After you’ve had your Christmas cheer, why shouldn’t fish have some fun? Several communities have programs in place where they’ll take your old Christmas tree, drill a hole in the base, tie a brick to it, and throw it in a lake. When humans create artificial lakes, they tend to be relatively featureless on the bottom for easy dredging. That’s great for us, but it means baby fish have nowhere to escape predators. Christmas trees provide a nice, temporary place for the fish to hide out and explore.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to see your Christmas tree mauled by a pride of lions, that’s OK too! Some zoos around the world take Christmas tree donations (but please remove all the tinsel first) and allow the animals to play with them.

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