Every year on Christmas, the small medieval town of Gubbio, in northern Italy, lights up the world’s biggest Christmas tree on the slopes of Mount Ingino that lies outside the city. The “tree” is not an actual tree, rather a light installation shaped like a Christmas tree. With no biological restriction on size, this tree rises 650 meters up the slope, made up of nearly a thousand multi-coloured lights and 10 km of cabling. A shining shooting star at the top itself covers an area of more than 1,000 square metres and is made up of 250 lights. In 1991 the Guinness Book of Records named it “The World’s Largest Christmas Tree”
The tradition started when people of Gubbio decided to celebrate Christmas in a different way and in 1981 the first tree was illuminated. Since then, on the eve of the feast of the Immaculate Conception – December 7, the Christmas tree is lit up and remains lit for a month. At the 2011 lighting ceremony, the tree was lit by none other than His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who flicked a virtual switch from his computer in the Vatican.
Although the outline of the Tree remains permanently on the mountain, with hundreds of bulbs to screw in and thousands of meters of cables to check, the preparation requires a special committee of volunteers scrambling the woods on Mount Ingino for three months every year. Since 2010, the power required for lighting the tree is provided by solar cells.
The Tree is seen as the glorification of their patron saint, Sant-Ubaldo, twelfth century bishop of Gubbio buried in the Basilica di Sant’Ubaldo at the top of Mount Ingino, where the comet star crowns.
This feature originally appeared in Amusing Planet.