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From tree to iconic symbol at Mumbai hotels

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From tree to iconic symbol at Mumbai hotels
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When Christmas time rolls around each year, people throng public spaces like malls and hotels to see the Yuletide decorations put up. Though most individuals enjoy seeing Christmas trees being spruced up, very few know who, and how they are made.

While Christmas is celebrated mainly by Catholics worldwide, people of other faiths also take part in the festivities. At every nook, one can find stores displaying prancing reindeer, a pot-bellied Father Christmas, or ornaments put up on display.

At more prominent places, living Christmas trees are decorated, the artificial ones started gaining popularity in the early 20th century. They are created from feathers, papier-mâché, metal glass, and many types of plastic.

Prakash Deshpande, an artist from Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, has been making the Christmas tree at Le Méridien hotel in New Delhi since the past 20 years. Elaborating on the detail that goes into making the tree at the hotel, the artist said: "Usually, the height of the tree is approximately 20 feet. I am given free hand by hotel management to make the tree on various themes. I've made trees from empty beer bottles, newspapers, wool, clothes, lights, acrylic sheets and empty water bottles with LED lights."

Deshpande added that he wasn't creating the trees to make big money, but for self-satisfaction. Speaking about the management at the hotel, he said: "The kind of freedom I am given at Le Méridien, would not be the same at other hotels, which may limit or compromise on my thoughts. Not only I, but management too is happy with my creation, which just adds to my satisfaction."

Globally too, many towns and villages erect their own Christmas trees. Ever since 1920, the White House has had a large tree on its front lawn. Another famous tree is the one at Trafalgar Square in London, which is given to the United Kingdom by Norway each year as a Thank You present for the help the UK gave Norway in World War II.

In India, the varieties of Christmas trees are limited, so the bigger trees are generally imported. Hotels erect different sizes, and space constraints compel them to place orders well in advance. In addition to the job needing to be done very delicately to avoid breakage, lighting has to be taken care of, which warrants concentration and proper planning.

Sandeep Soi works at a leading event management company in Mumbai, and has been making Christmas trees for hotels like the Grand Hyatt, Sofitel and others since the past six years. He said: "Along with my team of artists, we have created an 18-ft-tall tree for Sofitel Hotel, BKC whereas the one for Grand Hyatt hotel was 35-ft-tall.

It is interesting to note that the tallest artificial Christmas tree was 52mtrs (170.6ft) tall, and had green PVC leaves. Called the Peace Tree, and designed by Sonae Distribuição Brasil, it was displayed at Moinhos de Vento Park, Porto Alegre, Brazil from Dec 2001 till January 2002.

Nitin Shankar Nagrale, founder and general secretary, Hospitality Purchasing Managers Forum explained that the themes of the trees are the prerogative of hotels. He added: "The Grand Hyatt has a bigger space available for erecting the tree. A few years ago, along with the hotel's management team, I visited Holland to procure a tree which was 35-mtrs-tall, the biggest in Mumbai."

Mukesh Kumar, vice president, Infiniti Mall, Malad explained how the tree is the main attraction in December. "Word of mouth publicity brings larger volumes of visitors in malls. Besides window shopping, it also helps shopkeepers in selling their products in good volume," he added.

Ajoy Balkrishna, GM of the Grand Sarovar hotel in Goregaon (W) informed: "We have in house artists from the housekeeping department who erect the trees in the lobby and restaurants. The entire hotel is decorated with Christmas ornaments, right from the lobby till the topmost floor."

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