It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in King George Square as festive fittings, namely the iconic Christmas tree, are beginning to emerge. Marvelling at the soaring display of lights, tinsel and bright decorations is a mainstay in most locals’ holiday calendar. Yet, the story behind this tradition remains a Christmas mystery to many of us.
Brisbane’s city-goers began to catch the festive spirit in 1954 when The Women’s Auxiliary of the Queensland National Gallery Society submitted a proposal to the Council for a Christmas tree, to be adorned with colourful lights and staged in King George Square. They believed a large ornament-laden display in front of City Hall would “bring Brisbane into conformity with similar decorations in cities abroad, such as Trafalgar Square in London” and may encourage residents to participate in the festive season.
After approval from the Council, a 40-foot Hoop Pine was sourced from Mount Crosby Pumping Station and staged in the centre of the city. Decorated with more than 300 lights installed by the Electricity Department, the tree dazzled Brisbane residents with its soaring height and colourful embellishments. So much so, the Council agreed to an annual event with a dedicated budget of £365. Committed to spreading the Christmas cheer, the Council continued to raise the tree, even amidst the reconstruction of King George Square in 1969.
By 1976, the supply of suitable Hoop Pines had dwindled, and the beauty of the display was threatened by the leaves turning brown after two weeks in Brisbane’s hot summer sun. Spurred on by a shrinking supply, in 1977, the Council branched out and went to tender for an artificial tree. The tree cost $18,100 and was first staged in 1978.
Ever since, the tree has been refurbished three times to ensure it continues to bring holiday joy to the people of Brisbane. The most recent refurbishment in 2009 involved the integration of solar lights and a solar star. This was the first time a city Christmas tree had been solar powered in Australia and was the largest solar powered Christmas tree in the world, standing at 22 metres tall.
Heralding the start of the Christmas season, the iconic tree has begun to take shape in the centre of King George Square once again. See the full tree in all it’s glory from Friday 26 November as part of Christmas in Brisbane.
Want to get a birds-eye view of the Christmas tree? Book a Clock Tower Tour today!
Information sourced from Mayor’s reports and correspondence files held in the City of Brisbane Collection.