Row over Christmas tree in Estonia

Artists, citizens and politicians are at loggerheads in the Estonian city of Rakvere over the design of the Christmas tree erected each year on the central square. Instead of the innovative installations of recent years the city's new governing coalition wants a return to a traditional Christmas tree. Politicians shouldn't interfere with art out of a false sense of tradition, the country's media criticise.

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Postimees (EE) /

Bold innovation made the city famous

Saying no to the novel Christmas installations would be a real loss for the city, Postimees puts in:

“Rakvere runs the risk of renouncing a hallmark that has drawn international attention. Some politicians justify the decision with references to the Christian tradition despite the fact that the Christmas tree has pagan origins and the New Testament establishes no connection between Jesus' birth and a tree. It's wrong to assume that it takes special knowledge to understand contemporary art. That was the case with classical art, which was based on symbolism, myths and historical events. Contemporary art takes place in the observer's response. The same is true of the Christmas installations in Rakvere: everyone is free to interpret them as they please.”

Maaleht (EE) /

Leave art to the artists

Stipulating the design of Rakvere's Christmas tree in the municipal coalition agreement is a mistake, Maaleht believes:

“There's not a great difference between that and stipulating the repertoire for Rakvere Theatre or telling [composer Arvo] Pärt what notes he must use in his next piece to make sure it pleases all the taxpayers. ... Let the people rant and rave, the hard workers go about their business and the artists go on creating their art. One could also take the same view of the dispute over the tree as artist [and innovative tree designer] Teet Suur did at the start: this is not about creating an outstanding work of art on Rakvere's main square, but about a staged event in which all observers - along with their emotions - take part. Before the triumphal climax a tragic interlude is now playing out as the audience looks on.”