10 years of brick-built LEGO Christmas Trees

Rebuild the Holidays

Over the past 10 years, the LEGO Group has produced 50 brick-built trees in holiday-themed sets. The trees range from mini builds in the annual Advent calendars to stand-alone products built with hundreds of bricks.

Each of these trees includes a combination of foliage, lights & ornaments, and a star. This post explores the many different ways LEGO designers have built these trees.1

Data

Data for each LEGO set containing a brick-built tree is from Brickset. Details are recorded in a Google Docs sheet, which is publicly available here.

Expand for descriptions of key columns.

Columns used in analysis:

  • set_name is the official LEGO name of the product. This column can be used for identifying Advent calendars.
  • theme is the LEGO theme of the product (e.g. CITY, Friends). Some sets, such as ornaments and the employee gifts, do not cleanly fit in a theme.
  • star_color & star_piece describe the bricks used to represent the star at the top of the tree.
  • light_color & light_piece describe the bricks used decorate the trees as lights and ornaments. At the small scale, it’s difficult to distinguish between the two decorations.
  • present and snow are logical, noting whether the tree comes with brick-built presents or snow. The present tag is ambiguous for the Advent calendars, since most sets come with presents on different days, but not in the same mini build as the tree.
  • foliage_orientation SOT for “studs on top” or SNOT for “studs not on top”. Many trees use both building techniques, but the primary technique is listed here.
  • height_sot is the height of any studs-on-top elements in the tree, expressed as LEGO plates. height_snot is the height of any studs-not-on-top elements, expressed as studs. These two columns are mutually exclusive. They can be summed together with a conversion of 8 SOT units to 3 SNOT units to get total height (excluding star height). This is used to calculate the height distribution chart below.

4 ways to group 50 trees

18 trees are built with a “studs not on top” (SNOT) methodology. Classic LEGO creations are built by stacking pieces on top of each other, but more advanced building techniques, such as SNOT, sometimes allow for more detail in the build. These SNOT trees have become more common in recent years, especially in the Advent calendars.
9 trees are integrated with white bricks to represent snow covering all or some of the branches. The two Harry Potter Advent calendars so far both have had trees with snow.
22 trees, a bit less than half of them, are from the annual LEGO Advent calendar sets. The CITY and Friends themed sets always contains a tree. The first year of the Star Wars-themed Advent calendar had a class Christmas tree, but none since.
13 trees use bricks for foliage other than dark green. Most of these 13 trees use a combination of dark green and other shades of green. The most unique Christmas tree so far comes from this year’s Harry Potter Advent calendar set (75981), with an all-white tree.

Height distribution of trees

The trees vary in height, with the shortest trees (from base to foliage tip, excluding star) in the 2019 CITY Advent calendar (60235) and the 2020 Charles Dickens Tribute (40410) at approximately 3 bricks tall.

The tallest brick-built tree is in the 2019 gift-with-purchase set Christmas Tree (40388) at 45 plates (15 bricks) tall. This set also contains the most unique element pieces and colors as decorations and lights.

Trees with SNOT orientation have a more restricted range of heights. While building with studs on sides might allow for more creative building, the format might only work well for medium scale trees.

Stars

Most of the trees (except for three) have a star representation at the top. Across all the trees, there have been 15 different LEGO elements used as stars, in 9 different colors. The 1x1 star shape piece is the most commonly used topper, and pieces in warm gold and transparent yellow colors are most common.

This chart shows the distribution of four most common (plus others) star pieces in the four most commonly used colors (plus others). The magic wand (with star tip) piece is a frequently used piece, but has only been produced in transparent fluorescent green. The diamond piece (which resembles a 3D gemstone) has been used in two transparent colors.

Lights & Ornaments

The other key feature of brick-built Christmas trees is the lights and ornament decorations on the sides of the trees. Nearly all the trees use round 1x1 plates or tiles (no studs) for this feature, but the colors vary across trees. Most trees use more than one color for the lights, with some clear patterns in the pairings.

This chart sorts the colors by their frequency, from transparent yellow used in 23 of the trees, to medium lilac used just once. Lines between colors link pairs that are used in at least two trees. (e.g. transparent yellow & transparent red is a common pairings).

The chart is further split into transparent bricks (triangles, green pairings) and solid colors (circles, black pairings).

Transparent bricks tend to be grouped exclusively with other transparent bricks, and solid bricks with other solid bricks. The one exception is the large 2019 Christmas Tree 40388 set, which included lights and ornaments in 9 different colors.


Check out the full script on GitHub.

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  1. The charts use some very questionable design choices, but it’s Christmas, so festive over substance. 🎅↩︎

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Ryan Timpe
Data Science | Economics

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