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8 DEC 2015
MONS, Belgium—Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe celebrated one of its oldest traditions since its move from France to Belgium in 1967. The Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony heralds the official start of the Christmas period for the SHAPE community and recognises the gift of a fir tree from the town of Malmedy.
This year, the annual ceremony was held at the main entrance to the SHAPE Headquarters on Tuesday, 8 December 2015, with the large fir tree surrounded by the flags of the 28 NATO nations.
During the ceremony, the SHAPE International Band, together with the Canadian School Choir, performed traditional Christmas songs, and the SHAPE Chaplain gave an invocation and Christmas blessing.
The Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Philip Breedlove, together with the head of the Malmedy delegation, had the honour of lighting the tree.
“It’s a great time of year – many people celebrate differently but this community now is celebrating Christmas together,” said Gen. Phil Breedlove, Supreme Allied Commander Europe. “It’s a time of family, it’s a time of friendship and closeness and these two cities have had a close relationship for many, many years. It’s just good to renew that friendship.”
The Christmas tree will be illuminated every day until 2 January 2016, from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from dusk until 11 p.m. On Christmas Eve, the lights will remain on until dawn on Christmas morning.
The official SHAPE Christmas tree has been donated from the town of Malmedy for the past 48 years. Malmedy gave the first tree as a symbol of gratitude to the United States Armed Forces for the city’s liberation during World War II. However, the gift soon became a gift not just to the U.S. personnel at SHAPE, but to the entire SHAPE community for their defence of freedom in Europe. The tradition continues to this day.
L. J. De Rothschild