For the past 22 years, the 372 meters high Gerbrandy Tower in IJsselstein has been decorated with lights to make it the biggest free standing Christmas Tree in the world. The Christmas Tree has become a beloved element of Christmas in the Netherlands.
2020 has been a difficult year for all of us, and to help make Christmas a little lighter, Ximedes decided to be a sponsor for this year's tree.
The tree has also seen good and bad years. In 2017 just days before switching on the lights, lightning struck and more than half of the lights stopped working. That year we rushed out with colored spotlights to light the tower, but the lights in the tree had to be turned off.
Early in 2018 planning started to rebuild all the lights, more energy efficient, more robust, and lighter. During the summer Stichting Kerstboom and Stichting Scoop Hobbyfonds worked together to build and test more than 120 new lights for the Christmas Tree. These new lights are energy efficient high brightness LEDs which can withstand the rough weatherconditions at the top of the tower and this is the third year they are shining.
In contrast to what most people think, the lights are hoisted up on their own lines and do not share or touch the tower's structural tethers. There are 12 lines in total, each line being stored on a big wooden roll.
To make everything fit perfectly both mechanically and electrically each line has it's own exact length and number of lights and there are custom anchor points on the tower to hoist and attach them to.
Putting up the lights takes about a week with a team of 15 to 20 people, most volunteers. Some of the people in the team hang outside the tower for hours in the cold wind at great heights, while the others connect all the lights and seal all connectors with grease and tape.
Preparation of all this work starts months ahead of time and the planning takes weather conditions into account so that the tree is ready to be switched on during the Tree Lighting Party that is held in IJsselstein each year. This year the planning was a bit different, a lot of care was taken to do everything corona-proof. Of course the Tree Lighting Party and concert had to be cancelled. Instead, RTV Utrecht broadcast this year's lighting live on television.
If you want to check out the tree for yourself, there is no need to travel. A 24 hour live video feed of the tree with four cameras is available, two of which are in the tree.
It should be no surprise that this operation can not be done without safety gear, training, insurance, and electricity. This year both Ximedes and Pay.nl have jointly decided to become Grootste Kerstboom Sponsors so that everybody can enjoy the biggest freestanding Christmas Tree in the world again.
The lights in the tree are burning day and night, and will be switched off on January 6th 2021, after which they will be taken down again and carefully stored for next Christmas.