Floating Christmas

Photo credit: GabrielCorrea89 / Flickr

Rio de Janeiro inaugurated the world’s largest floating Christmas tree this week with a crowd of 10,000 spectators and a fireworks show that would have put Disneyland to shame.


That’s right, floating Christmas tree. It floats in Lagoa, a lagoon bordered by some of Rio’s most famous neighborhoods, including Copacabana and Ipanema. And it doesn’t just float in place; it migrates around the lagoon.

The world’s largest floating Christmas tree is 279 feet tall (about 28 stories) and weighs over 500 tons.

It has 3.3 million light bulbs, 65 miles of light rope, a dozen light patterns (candy canes, stockings, stars) and 2,100 strobe light to ensure that twinkling stars effect – “grandiose numbers,” according to the tree’s scenographer Abel Gomes, who says the tree employs 1,200 people for the holiday season and has enough generators to power a town of 20,000.

It’s even got a sponsor (Bradesco Seguros, the biggest insurance company in Latin America), a theme (“A Gift for the Brazilian Family“), and its own website in three languages with a Christmas countdown and an augmented reality game.

None of this is new, not even the strobe lights.

Photo credit: bycarlosphoto / Flickr

It was the Guinness Book of World Records’ world’s largest floating Christmas tree in 1996, too, standing 157 feet tall with 1.5 million light bulbs (although the tree had grown another 100 feet by 1999 when Guinness bestowed the official title).

Bradesco has sponsored all 16 editions of the tree since it first lit up the lagoon  in 1996.

It gained mobility and started floating around the lagoon in 2000. 2005 saw the introduction of a Bellagio-style Water Ballet with 48 water-launchers shooting 60 feet into the air and a synchronized light show to commemorate the tree’s 10th anniversary.

They started using biofuel to power the tree in 2007, the same year a virtual tree was debuted in SecondLife.   Last year it got a Twitter feed.

This year’s new feature: floats carrying bundles of presents around the tree and a sculpture of the the 2016 Olympics logo.

Photo credit: b_borges / Flickr

Spectacle is in Rio’s DNA, down to the Christmas tree. This is a city that routinely produces mega-shows, from New Year’s and Carnaval to Rock in Rio, the biggest music festival on the planet. When they built a new municipal operations center this year, they did it with the biggest surveillance screen in Latin America.

As the city gears up for Rio+20, World Youth Day, World Cup 2014 and the 2016 Olympic games, you can guarantee the world’s largest floating Christmas tree is only getting bigger.