What do two popes, the actor Terence Hill, and Doctors without Borders have in common? Each of them has had the honor of lighting the world’s largest Christmas tree, proudly displayed since 1981 in the small Umbrian town of Gubbio in Italy.
Perhaps not exactly what you imagine a Christmas tree to look like, this one is a display of more than 700 lights splayed across the side of Mount Ingino and arranged in the shape of a Christmas tree. Gubbio is nestled into the side of this mountain, and, while especially charming during Christmas, the town is an unspoiled place to visit any time of year.
The “roots” of the Mount Ingino Christmas Tree stretch from near Gubbio’s ancient walls, and its star reaches the basilica of the town’s patron saint, Saint Ubaldo, at the peak of the mountain, which is about 3,000 feet high.
Every December since my husband and moved to Umbria, we’ve anticipated the lighting of Gubbio’s world-famous Christmas tree on the eve of December 7. There’s nothing like standing under the stars and watching it slowly emerge in the dusk from our little hilltop garden. The tree festively twinkles every evening until midnight. Then, on the first Sunday after Epiphany (a holiday on January 6), the world’s largest Christmas tree disappears until next December.
History Behind Gubbio’s Christmas Tree
In 1981, a small committee in Gubbio gave life to the Christmas tree, and in 1991, the 2,000-plus-foot-tall light display entered the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s Largest Christmas Tree. Since then, the committee has grown to 53 members — the youngest being 19 years old and the oldest 86. They begin in September to ensure all is in order, including the 4.5 miles of wire and 1,350 sockets and plugs needed for the tree’s lighting.
More than 300 green lights outline the shape of a Christmas tree, and the center is filled with upwards of 400 multi-colored lights. At the top of the tree, a star is outlined by 250 white lights.
For anyone worried about electricity costs, the Mount Ingino Christmas Tree is run almost entirely on solar energy collected throughout the year.
Adopt A Christmas Tree Light
Each year in early November, you can “adopt” one of the Gubbio Christmas tree lights for a mere €10. This allows you to dedicate the light to a loved one with a message. This year there are messages (in Italian) such as, “Grandpa, I miss you so much,” and, “For those who live by our side. This light is for the two sparks in our life – Mama and Papa.”
Click here to see the messages. By placing your cursor over the light on the tree, you can read its dedication. Don’t forget to save the website for next year to adopt your own light!
For full information about the Gubbio Christmas tree, see the tree’s website. You can also catch the lighting of the tree live on Facebook on December 7 at 6 p.m. CET (Central European Time), or 11 a.m. CST in the United States.
Tips For Visiting Gubbio During Christmastime
Viewing the world’s largest Christmas tree isn’t the only Christmas event Gubbio has to offer. From mid-November until the Sunday after January 6, the town is transformed into a true city of Christmas, with attractions and events for young and old alike.
Nearly everything can be experienced while wandering through the streets of this quiet medieval town, including evocative life-size nativity scenes, a Christmas market, and art projections on the town’s medieval palaces. There are also many fun adventures for children, like the North Pole Ferris Wheel, Santa’s Sleigh, and the Gubbio Express Christmas Train.
The Gubbio Express Christmas Train is especially handy for those who have trouble walking, as it travels around the hilly town and stops at all the major sites.
Every year, my husband and I make our yearly pilgrimage to see the life-size nativity scene in the oldest quarter of the town called St. Martin. As you turn a corner, you can catch typical 1300s scenes: women washing clothes in the lavanderia, ancient medieval markets, and ultimately the manger complete with oxen, donkeys, and the Holy Family. The winding, stone medieval streets provide a beautiful and mysterious setting for this special Christmas experience.
Christmas In Gubbio In 2022
You catch live nativity scenes on December 8 and 26, 2022, in the Piazza San Pietro from 4:45 p.m. until 7 p.m.
If you like Christmas music, there are plenty of free concerts, including music by the Angels Gospel Choir and the Guardia di Finanza’s musical band. And if you are around in January, you can enjoy the arrival of La Befana, the good witch who brings children presents on January 6, and even take a ride in the beautiful Befana buggy pulled by her special horses.
For information and a calendar of events (in Italian), visit the Gubbio tourism website. And here’s a handy map (PDF) of Gubbio with all the Christmas attractions (and parking locations).