Tannenbaum Colombo Style (Trees Outside Town Hall).

Ok people this is the update you’ve all been waiting for. A fresh batch of fir trees has been brought down from the hills and can now be picked up for between 800-2000 rupees outside Town Hall.

It’s the quaintest Christmas tradition on earth. In a tropical and 30 degree Colombo a band of men from the cooler hills travels down to the city every December, carrying fir trees (usually branches) to sell to the city’s Christmas celebrants. A makeshift market of pine and fir springs up opposite the Town Hall and to me this is the essence of the Colombo Christmas. An utterly quirky tropical imitation of the Victorian British celebration with Portuguese (midnight mass) Dutch (breudher), and modern (Wham) elements thrown in.

The trees – important in a barren European winter, but utterly illogical in a glowing green Colombo – are an Anglo/German contribution. But in this age of plastic trees with more and more ‘beautification’ related restrictions every year I fear Colombo’s singular interpretation of the tannenbaum is about to die out. Every December week I didn’t see the temporary camp of settlers from the hills and their trees outside Town Hall I worried that this was finally the year when the men wouldn’t appear. That demand for real fir trees had faded to the point where it was no longer worth it for them to make the journey to far off Colombo, or that the defence ministry had forced them to some far off corner of Battaramulla but no…

This year at least they are back again, and a baffling and beautiful tradition lives on.

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