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Dec 9 2020

The Meaning Behind the Malmedy tree

SHAPE, Belgium—Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) is preparing their annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony scheduled for Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 in front of the headquarters.

Since 1967, when SHAPE moved to Belgium from France, the city of Malmedy has taken the opportunity to make a gesture of gratitude. Offering a Christmas tree to the United States Armed Forces who liberated the city during World War Two and supported them in the battle of the Bulge in 1944. After that episode, the spontaneous gift has become a tradition, and today it is an example of the SHAPE community’s commitment to the defence and security of Belgium and Europe.

“A ceremony full of significance is organised every year and this event became more and more important for the community of SHAPE and the city of Malmedy, in an ever-changing world keeping traditions help to give meaning and stability to our lives,” said Major Christian Von Wassenhove, who has coordinated the event for 8 years running.

Behind this ceremony there is extensive organisation, which starts after the summer holidays, when first a date is planned. Major Von Wassenhove, the liaison officer who makes the link between SHAPE and local Belgian institutions, leads the event and has done so since arriving at SHAPE in 2012. He announced that this will be his last year before his retirement and shared all the emotions centred around his final year coordinating the event.

“The 50th anniversary in 2017 when for the first time SACEUR assisted to the tree cut in Malmedy forest, all the beautiful times shared with Allies and local delegation, the traditional Christmas songs performed by SHAPE International Band and the Canadian School Choir, all community around the tree attending the ceremony with their eyes focused on the tree and Santa Claus giving gifts to children,” said Von Wassenhove.

This year, the ceremony takes place on Dec. 11th, respecting national restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Tod D. Wolters, will speak at the ceremony alongside the governmental delegation of Malmedy and Base Support Group Commander Colonel Ryan Raymond.

“Keeping traditions alive is a big responsibility,” said Von Wassenhove. “Celebrating gives the chance to respect the values and the memories.”

As per tradition a 12-meter-tall tree was chosen from the forest of Malmedy, it has been transported and decorated in front of the HQ Building by the local support. The tree illuminates the headquarters ingress and serves as a symbol of peace and hope.

This event marks the official start of the SHAPE Christmas holidays, the most magic moment of the year.

Stay Tuned for the live stream of the ceremony at 1630 local time on SHAPE Notifications Facebook page, by following the link:

Video and Story by SHAPE Public Affairs Office

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