It’s that time of year again, when you drag home a tree, unwrap your ornaments, and schlep out to the store to buy replacement bulbs for the lights that mysteriously broke over the summer. It’s a hassle, but it’s nothing compared to what’s gone into the construction of some of the most extravagant Christmas trees on the planet. These are not meant for strings of popcorn: these are works of art elaborate enough to make Santa weep. (Tears of joy, of course.)
From San Diego to New York to London to Paris, we’ve rounded up some of the most expensive, luxurious trees of the season. None may have cost $11 million like that one year in Abu Dhabi, but we still think they’re nice.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Fittingly, the Met’s 20-foot tall blue spruce tree is decked out with priceless historical objects, including a collection of 18th century Neopolitan angels and cherubs scattered through its boughs. There’s also a group of (uncannily) realistic crèche figures which flank the nativity scene.
Given that so many little boys and girls are going to find a Burberry scarf under the tree this year, it’s appropriate that Claridge’s (certainly untraditional) tree was designed this year by Christopher Bailey, the chief creative and chief executive officer of Burberry. It’s the sixth year the iconic Mayfair hotel has partnered with a designer; Dolce & Gabanna, Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz and John Galliano have all had a turn in the past. No need to squint: those are, in fact, almost 100 gold and silver umbrellas. Someone is planning for a not-so-white Christmas…
Bonus: At sister hotel the Connaught, artist Damien Hirst was enlisted to decorate the property’s inaugural outdoor tree. Fittingly odd, he’s made ornaments from medical instruments and pills and strung garlands of sausages on the 30-foot Norway spruce.
The Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris
Not quite a tree and more specifically a forest of trees, The George V’s holiday installation, euphemistically called Arctic Fantasy and created by their artistic director Jeff Leatham is really a foil to the main attraction in the hotel’s marble courtyard, two giant polar bears made out of mirror. (Inside, penguins made out of a similar material bring a surreal touch to the hotel’s elaborate lobby.)
The Hotel del Coronado, San Diego
For everyone who doesn’t live in Southern California, it seems vaguely unfair that they get to enjoy palm trees and evergreens, but the world is not a fair place as any disappointed child will tell you on Christmas morning. Thus the Hotel del Coronado in perennially sunny San Diego has a 21-foot-tall lobby tree inspired by the graphic artist Jeff Granito’s folksy (and disingenuously, wintery) picture of the hotel.
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London
In a departure from the usual weak gestures at other religions during the holiday season (nothing so bleak as a small plastic Menorah next to a 35-foot-tall spruce, blazing with light), the V&A has gone the extra mile with Kalpataru: The Wishing Tree by Delhi-based designers Sarthak Sengupta and Sahil Bagga. It’s a colorful ensemble of free-standing structures (in a tree-light arrangement) handcrafted out of beaten brass and painted with classic Indian motifs by artists from Kerala.
The American Museum of Natural History, New York
Unless you have a whole lot of free time, don’t even think of trying this at home. The AMNH’s annual Origami Holiday tree contains over 1,000 pieces of origami art from volunteers (and professionals, don’t feel too bad about yourself) all over the 13-foot tree’s boughs. The theme this year, “Mighty and Microscopic Life,” was inspired by the upcoming exhibitions The Secret World Inside You and Dinosaurs Among Us, as well as the current exhibition Life at the Limits: Stories of Amazing Species, so you can spy everything from pterosaurs to kangaroos to little blobby bacterium.
Le Royal Monceau — Raffles, Paris
This one’s so fancy it even has a name and a backstory: “The Lightning Tree,” designed by Didier Faustino, was inspired by a plane journey through stormy weather and, in a somewhat surprising twist, the hyper-austere lightning field by Walter de Maria. The “tree” is four separate sculptures under a neon light fixture whose negative space forms a tree shape as you walk around it. It’s also available in chocolate form.
The Designers’ Christmas Trees, Paris
For the past 20 years, the charity Les Sapins de Noël des Créateurs, conceived of and run by the French journalist and TV personality Marie-Christiane Marek, enlists designers to create an elaborate version of a Christmas tree that’s then auctioned off to help the fight against cancer. This year’s auction was on Nov. 23 and designers included the fashion houses Chanel and Christian Dior, the designers Nina Ricci and Jean-Paul Gaultier, and even Pierre Hermé, whose chain of super-high end macarons are the not-at-all-best-kept secret of Paris. — Bloomberg