2016 Christmas tree for Old Town Square comes from Pecka

Prague's Old Town Square Christmas tree to be lit Nov. 26

This year's Christmas tree for Old Town Square comes from Pecka in the Hradec Králové region. It is about 31 meters tall, making it 8 meters taller than last year's tree from Česká Lípa. The 70-year-old tree will be cut down Nov. 20 and will be lit Nov. 26 at the opening of the Christmas market.

Pecka Mayor Hana Štěrbová said that providing the tree to Old Town helps to bring attention to her town, which she called the pearl of the Krkonoše foothills. She also pointed out the historical connection between Pecka and Old Town Square. Nobleman Kryštof Harant z Polžic a Bezdružic lived in Pecka Castle in the late 1500s and early 1600s. He was among the 27 Protestant noblemen, knights and burghers who were executed in Old Town Square in 1621 for opposing the Habsburgs. There are 27 crosses on the pavement of the square to mark the event.

Harant also was a composer in the Franco-Flemish polyphony school and a traveler. He wrote the book Journey from Bohemia to the Holy Land, by way of Venice and the Sea, published in 1608.

The 70-year-old tree is on private property and the owners planned to cut it down. Petr Hozák of Taiko said the winning tree was in the running for last year's Christmas tree as well, but did not win because another tree was scheduled to be cut down sooner to make a parking lot. This year's tree has ideally feathered branches due to its growing isolated from the forest, he added.

Taiko, the company that runs the Christmas Market at Old Town Square, tries to find trees that are destined to be cut down anyway so the impact on the environment is reduced.

The tree was donated by the Wolf family in memory of forest owner František Wolf, whose ancestors served the noble Trauttmansdorff family. He won the property back in restitution after 1989. His widow, Alena Wolfová, said that supplying a tree to Old Town Square fulfilled one of his wishes, although he was unfortunately unable to see it.

Tree experts from Mendel University in Brno have inspected the tree with acoustic tomography and analyzed wood samples. “I can confirm that the tree is healthy, vital and is suitable for installation on Old Town Square,” dendrologist Jan Tippner said.

Last year, the tree lighting was canceled do to security concerns, and instead there was series of smaller events every hour on the afternoon of the first day of the market, with a video program that repeated. There is not word yet of the schedule for the first day this year.

The Christmas market at Old Town Square is regularly ranked as one of the best in Europe. Aside from stands with gifts and food it has a stage with daily entertainment and a small petting zoo. The market will run from Nov. 26, one day before the start of Advent, and ends Jan. 6, 2017, on Three Kings Day, an important event in the Orthodox calendar.

The company Taiko also currently runs markets for St Wenceslas day, autumn, spring and Easter as well. They have run the Christmas market since 2004 and on Oct 11 won a contract to run the markets indefinitely and pay Kč 4 million per year. The contract can be canceled with a one-year notice period.

The awarding of the contract was not without controversy. Taiko was given notice two years ago, as the city was unhappy with the markets. Opposition politicians from TOP 09 and the ODS questioned why the City Council did nothing for the last year and a half and then gave the contract back to the very people they had taken it from. Prague ODS leader Filip Humplík called the process a parody.

The contest to award the new contract had three bidders, but one was eliminated in the first round. The firm Zahrada Čech of Litoměřice said it offered more money than the other competitors and met all the qualifications but was eliminated without explanation. The other competitor, which advanced to the second round, was Farmářské trhy, which organizes farmers markets in Prague 6.

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