Árvore de Natal 2011 - Foto: Elisângela Leite

Rio de Janeiro isn’t a city known for doing things on a small scale, and the Christmas tree in the Lago Rodrigo de Freitas is no exception. Not content with having a tree measuring around 85 metres in height and weighing close to 500 tonnes, the Bradesco Seguros Christmas tree (it’s sponsored by a Brazilian insurance company) is much more than a tree; it’s more of a singing, flashing enormous piece of public art.

Here’s a short video introducing this year’s tree (complete with cheesy music):

The floating tree has been used to promote a message of world peace and environmental awareness – not easy for something carrying as many lights as a small town. In 2006 the power generators needed to light the tree were powered by bio-diesel for the first time, helping to keep down the tree’s considerable carbon footprint. As the tree has grown (both as an idea and physically) so the technical wizardry surrounding it has become more impressive. There are automated Christmas carols, fireworks and even dancing water to help create a magic spectacle; for the 2014 edition there were over 1200 people involved in the set-up and maintenance of the Christmas tree. The latest version carries over 3 million bulbs and contains over 24 km of cables and wires – imagine trying to find that annoying loose bulb!

This film shows the tree in its various guises over the last 20 years – it’s pretty clear just how much the ambitions of the tree designers (and the amount of money spent on it) has risen dramatically since the idea first started.

The Bradesco Seguros Christmas tree will be lit every day until the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th, and during its time on show, the tree floats slowly around the lake, mounted on a series of sturdy pontoons.

You can visit Rio as part of Sunvil Traveller’s 14-night Highlights of Brazil itinerary.

Photo by Riotur