No big Christmas tree lighting again in Prague

The tree will be lit every hour in the evening, rather than just once

The Christmas tree at Old Town Square will not have a single lighting ceremony again this year. Instead, it will be lit several times, with music and animation. The first lighting will be Nov. 26 at 5:30 pm. The tree will then light up every hour between 5:30 pm and 8:30 pm until Jan. 6.

The same situation occurred last year, in response to global security issues concerning large crowds. This year, the city says that it is being done for the comfort and convenience of visitors, as in the past the square became so crowded that it was hard for people to get near the tree. City officials say that a survey on the city's website showed people prefer the multiple lightnings rather than the single one. This will allow many more people to have the same experience. The tree lighting was a popular event to take children to, but with a city that has 1.2 million people the square was too small to accommodate everyone that wanted to come.

The city had been considering ca hange to the tree lighting for some time, as the large single crowd posed potential problems for emergency service vehicles.

The tree this year will come from Pecka in the Hradec Králové region. It is a 31-meter-tall spruce tree that is approximately 70 years old. It will be cut down on Sunday and transported to Prague on Monday and Tuesday. The tree grew in a forest but isolated from other trees so it has an excellent branch structure. It was donated in memory of František Wolf, who regained some forest land in restitution after 1989.

The Christmas market at Old Town Square will be operated by the company Taiko, which has operated the markets since 2004. They recently won a tender to operate them every year, with the possibility of the contract being canceled if the city gives a one-year notice. Taiko will pay a rent of Kč 4 million to operate the markets in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square. Opposition politicians criticized the tender, saying the city ignored better offers and waited until the last minute to award the contract.

The Christmas tree in Old Town Square has had a long history, and not without incident. In 2003 a 25-meter-tall spruce tree collapsed in a windstorm and seriously injured a British tourist. He was eventually awarded Kč 1.5 million in compensation by the courts. There were allegations that the tree had been improperly secured to the ground.

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