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Spruce from Riga to be Set up at Brussels Central Square for Christmas

A very special spruce from a forest on the outskirts of Riga left for Brussels today, November 14, where it will popularise Riga as an exciting holiday destination steeped in tradition. Decorated with traditional Latvian symbols, the Riga Spruce will be the centrepiece of the Brussels Christmas Festival that each year is attended by thousands of people from all over the world.

The 18.3-metre tall spruce was grown at the Riga municipal forestry company SIA “Rīgas meži” in Tīreļi Forest, Babīte Region.

The spruce will arrive in Brussels on November 20. There will be a special welcome ceremony, followed by decorating the tree. The official opening of Riga Christmas tree in the Grand Place (the central square of Brussels) will be on November 28 as part of the opening ceremony for the great winter festival Plaisirs D’Hiver. The Christmas tree will be lit by Riga Mayor Nils Ušakovs, and the Brussels Latvian Choir will have prepared a cultural programme for the occasion.

Vita Jermoloviča, Member of the Board at the Riga Tourism Development Bureau (Live Rīga) comments: “Taking into consideration that the number of tourists from Belgium increased 18% in the first six months this year from the first half of 2013, and the fact that Riga and Brussels have been bound by close friendship for many years now, a decision was made to surprise the residents and guests of Brussels this year by presenting the city with a spruce from Riga – the place where the Christmas tree was originated.”

In order to emphasise the history of Riga, a city rich in tradition, several symbols have been chosen to decorate the tree, each bearing unique meaning and a message to Brussels: the Cross of Māra is a symbol of happiness, used by Latvians since ancient times to safeguard material wealth, the Key, which visually resembles an icicle, also symbolises the legendary keys from Riga, a set of keys from the Riga coat of arms symbolises protection, and, finally, there is a decoration that spells “Rīga”.

Legend has it that 504 years ago, residents of Riga came together to jointly decorate a Christmas tree, which was the first instance of what would later become a globally-popular tradition. For this reason, Riga is considered the place where the tradition of decorating Christmas trees was born.


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