The tallest Christmas tree, brings joy and fame | Sunday Observer

The tallest Christmas tree, brings joy and fame

Pic: Saman Sri Wedage

For Mahinda Nanayakkara, the five days he spent not working on the proposed record-breaking 114-metre tall Christmas tree, felt like five long aching years, he says. The teary eyed 34 year-old who spent four years visualising an image of the world’s tallest Christmas tree, says, it is more than just a grand feat. “Every bit of it is an act of charity,” he says standing at the Galle Face esplanade where the 60-foot tree is starting to swiftly take shape.

Nanayakkara, a devout Buddhist, acknowledges that it was not unjust for Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, the Archbishop of Colombo to say that the funds could have been put for better use, to assist those who are less fortunate during a season that celebrates the act of giving. “But, this is just another variation,” he says, pointing to the many people huddled up in tents, busy at work, either painting pine combs green or taping wires on gigantic steel structures. “Charity does not have to be monetary, this space will bring many people together. I may be wrong but I think spreading happiness still qualifies as an act of charity.”

He goes on to elaborate how the Rs.12 million was collected and spent. “It wasn’t easy, the project began to take shape in August this year”, he says. “When individuals and the corporate sector expressed desire to support a project of this nature financially, we have no choice but to wait. The funds took weeks and months to collect.”

Even then, he says, much of the proceeds went to people who were less privileged. “The pine combs were collected from families in the hill country who gathered them and sold to us at Rs.40 a sack. We spent Rs. 400, 000 on pine combs alone.”

The world’s largest Christmas tree built under the aegis of the Ports and Shipping Minister, Arjuna Ranatunga, drew flak from various quarters, including Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, bringing construction work to an abrupt halt. The Archbishop of Colombo, termed the endeavour as a ‘wasteful expenditure’, saying the money could be used to build homes for the homeless or provide scholarships to poor children.

Work on the tree however, resumed on Monday, last week after a meeting with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister of Finance Ravi Karunanayake and the Archbishop. “The Archbishop had been misquoted. What he meant was, if government funds are being used for the project, it could be put to better use. However, the Prime Minister cleared the misunderstanding and informed him, it was a project constructed with private funds,” Minister Ravi Karunanayake had told AFP.

The tree, constructed mainly out of iron and wire mesh will be at Galle Face Green for a period of ten days starting on Christmas Day.

When asked if there were plans to erect the structure next year too, Nanayakkara said, while no decisions had been reached on the matter, talks swirled around the possibility of taking it to a different place next year. “Maybe even Jaffna,” he adds.

Nanayakkara is supported by nine other employees from the Ports Authority. “We still check-in at the Port early in the morning,” he says. “We don’t get paid or exempted from pay cuts for being here. So we finish as much work as possible at the Port, before we make our way here. We work until 12 midnight here.”

While we watch with interest, one of the workers prepares steaming cups of tea for the many volunteers, hard at work. “We had people bring us coconuts and dry rations yesterday,” he says with delight. “We cook for ourselves here.”

He explains, if the work had not been halted, the steel structures would have been hoisted by now. “We would need another five days to put them up and a few more days to make sure the lighting is perfect.”

Once completed, the Christmas tree will stand at a height of about 114 metres, decorated with 500,000 multi coloured bulbs. It will stand next to a 6-metre-tall Santa Claus and two 3-metre-tall reindeers, amid a number of Cyprus trees that would create an enchanting forest-like effect.

Mexico currently holds the world record for the tallest artificial Christmas tree which topped 90 metres in 2009. Authorities from the Guinness World Records are expected to visit Sri Lanka two weeks prior to its completion, presumably with a long measuring tape. 

Comments

Voicing public opinion to this Yahapalana Govt is like playing the Bethovens 5th Symphony to a deaf elephant and its mahout. They don't want to listen or hear to public dissent. Our only hope would be that people of Srilanka should respond like in the case of Brexit and US elections.

Brilliant. Christmas is the only festive season celebrated all over the world by all because it's a magical time of the year under excellent weather conditions and the breath and birth of a New Year. All faiths enjoy this time of the year and the idea of an awe inspiring giant Christmas tree is welcome symbol of the season. To hell with what Cardinal Malcom said.......Let us enjoy this magnificent "Christmas Tree" of the season. BTW this structure can also be transformed to a Vesak Thorana during the month of Vesak and back to the Tree for X'Mas.

Its a truly inspiring effort in a country like ours, seeking to retain religious and ethnic harmony. However, its objective should be to honor for those worries and innocents who paid the supreme sacrifice and for those who lost their organs during adolescence, to make what nation and country today. Guinness Record may fall onto the lowest priority.
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