Learning is at the heart of Museum of Brisbane. Extend your skills and knowledge through creative-led experiences and learn more about our city!
Christmas Tree in King George Square 1979. Courtesy Brisbane City Council Archives.

MoB Sunday Stories: Christmas Tree in King George Square

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.

City Hall with Christmas Tree in King George Square 1971. Courtesy Brisbane City Council Archives.
King George Square Construction 1969. Courtesy Brisbane City Council Archives.

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 remains lit each night in the centre of King George Square.  Book in a visit and stop by MoB Shop’s Christmas Shopping Night while you’re at it.

Want to get a birds-eye view of the Christmas tree during the day? Book a Clock Tower Tour today!


Information sourced from Mayor’s reports and correspondence files held in the City of Brisbane Collection.

You might also like

19 Apr 2024
2024 First Look
Back to Explore