Festive creativity at its peak: Christmas trees made from liquor bottles, banana leaves


Christmas tree lighting at Movenpick Hotel in Nairobi on December 5, 2023. PHOTO | BILLY OGADA | NMG

Kenyans have started decorating their Christmas trees, signalling the start of the festive season. If you want to go bold, go the hotels' way, ditch the cypress trees or artificial trees and build from scratch using recycled banana leaves or old newspapers.

Breaking away from traditional holiday norms, Movenpick Hotel & Residences Nairobi, took a unique approach to festive decorations by constructing not one but three Christmas trees. These trees are crafted from unconventional materials, including old newspapers and recycled banana tree backs, aligning with the hotel's commitment to eco-friendly practices.

“These trees boast unconventional materials, with one composed of old newspapers, another featuring recycled banana tree backs and the grandest of them all constructed from over 1,000 bottles of Kenya Original cider. The event is not only meant to showcase the creativity that marks Christmas sustainably but also how African art and creativity could be put to good use to celebrate global occasions.

One of the items on showcase at the hotel is a gingerbread house built like an African hut to represent the African heritage,” said Randy Ngala, public relations and marketing manager at Mövenpick.

Other hotels such as Safari Park and Casino, Radisson Blu Nairobi Upper Hill, Sarova Stanley and Villa Rosa Kempinski also invited guests to joyous Christmas tree lighting and listening to carols.

At Safari Park, it is not merely creating a visual spectacle with majestic Christmas trees; they crafted an immersive experience, synchronising their menu changes with the grandeur of their festive centrepiece. This thoughtful approach mirrors the spirit of the season, where hospitality meets compassion.

“We are organising our inaugural Christmas tree lighting event. In doing so, we reflect on the teachings of a compassionate individual who urged us to extend care to the underprivileged, marginalised and those who may differ from us," said Japhlet Kimathi- Safari Park general manager.

Russel Storey- general manager of Radisson Blu Hotel, Nairobi Upper Hill, highlighted that the lighting ceremony serves as their way of embracing the joy of the season and spreading happiness among guests and the community.

Enhancing the festive ambience, the occasion showcased live musical performances by the Upper Hill Secondary School and the SOS Children’s Choir, accompanied by seasonal treats and the delightful presence of Santa Claus, ensuring smiles and laughter for both children and adults alike.

"This lighting ceremony symbolises our dedication to embracing the joy of the season and radiating happiness among our guests and the community," he said.

Imagine strolling into a lavishly decorated hotel lobby adorned with shimmering lights and the scent of pine.

Now, picture yourself being greeted, not only by the majestic Christmas tree but also by a tantalising aroma wafting from the hotel's dining area.

This is the enchanting scene being set by hotels that have decided to synchronise their menu changes with the lighting of their festive centrepiece.

At Sarova Hotel, this year's tree lighting session became an iconic event as guests bid farewell to the third generation of the Thorn Tree.

Welcoming in the fourth generation, which now proudly stands tall on the bistro's pavement, this enduring Acacia has been a celebrated centrepiece for multiple Christmas seasons over the decades.

The towering tree, featuring a message board at the heart of the restaurant, is set to be replaced with a one-of-a-kind successor in an ongoing tradition, ensuring the preservation of the hotel's rich heritage as each tree ages.

“The first towering Acacia tree was planted into the hotel's design in 1958. There stood a majestic thorny tree making the spot a landmark in the young growing city. It was on this tree's trunk that residents and tourists alike would post small messages for each other. We are excited that you could join us for the auspicious occasion as we prepare to usher in the 4th Generation of the hotel's Thorn Tree,” said Duncun Mwangi-operations manager Sarova Stanley.

Hotels have already started illuminating festive menus alongside Christmas trees.

From cosy boutique inns to luxurious five-star establishments, the marriage of twinkling lights and delectable dishes is becoming a cherished tradition, offering guests an immersive experience that tantalises both the taste buds and the senses.

“It was a connecting point where travellers from near and far would leave notes found by lovers, family or friends hours, days, months or even years later. We are glad to be lighting it up this Christmas in celebration fashion,” he said

Legend purports that the Thorn Tree Cafe became a makeshift post box for travellers who left mail pinned onto its trunk.

It was pomp and flair as guests danced to Christmas tunes ushering in the festive season. Sarova Stanley is geared to usher the festivities with an array of refreshing African hospitality experiences.

In the spirit of the season, hotels are going above and beyond the conventional holiday fare.

Chefs are working tirelessly to craft menus that showcase the best of seasonal ingredients, creating dishes that are as visually stunning as they are delicious.

From gourmet takes on classic holiday staples to inventive fusion cuisine, these culinary artists are using the Christmas tree lighting as a backdrop to unveil their gastronomic masterpieces.

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