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A girl hugs a tree at the first Tree-hugging World Championships in the HaliPuu Forest, Levi, Finland. Photo: Eat Shoot Drive

Tree-hugging now has a world champion – and you can join in online, too

  • An Italian was crowned champion at the Tree-hugging World Championships in Levi, Finland, for her ‘convincingly caring and insightfully profound’ hugs
  • An online competition where people can upload photos of themselves or someone they know hugging a tree is running until August 29

As marketing gimmicks go, this one is cute. The world now has a tree-hugging champion.

August 22 saw the crowning of Stefania D at the first Tree-hugging World Championships, and until August 29 (the end of Tree-hugging Week, which has been celebrated in Finland since 2016), anyone with a desire to put their arms around a trunk can enter a virtual competition.

Planned before Covid-19 struck, the championships, which took place in the HaliPuu Forest, in Levi, Finland, had to be scaled down as a result of pandemic restrictions but nevertheless drew huggers representing Australia, Britain, Estonia, Finland, Italy, Malaysia, Poland, Russia, Ukraine and the United States.

The event was watched live by more than 12,000 viewers globally on Periscope and Instagram, according to the organisers.

The competitors, who were already living in Levi and therefore did not need to travel, competed in three events: speed-hugging (most trees hugged in 90 seconds, each hug lasting minimum five seconds); dedication (most dedicated hug lasting at least one minute); and freestyle (most creative hug, lasting a maximum of 30 seconds).

Stefania D from Italy shows her gratitude to a tree on her way to being crowned world champion at the Tree-hugging World Championships in Levi’s HaliPuu Forest. Photo: Eat Shoot Drive

“Several styles and takes on tree-hugging were showcased during the event, including impressive acrobatic acts [handstands, essentially] and a beautiful mother-daughter fairy-tale hug [by Team Russia],” the press release said.

None, however, were as “convincingly caring and insightfully profound” as that of the champion, felt the three judges, all of whom are themselves “experienced” tree-huggers – whatever that entails.

“I was very nervous before the start,” said Stefania, from Italy. “But when the competition was over, I was full of positive energy from the trees, the forest and the love pouring from the other participants.”

Tourist company HaliPuu’s CEO Riitta Raekallio-Wunderink hugs a birch tree at the first Tree-hugging World Championships in the HaliPuu Forest, Levi. Photo: Eat Shoot Drive

Those wanting to take part in the virtual Tree-hugging World Championships must upload a photograph of themselves or a loved one/friend hugging to the competition website, or post it on Instagram with both hashtags #TreeHugging2020 and #HaliPuu; include the coordinates of the tree in question in the photograph; and write a maximum 25-word description of why you love this specific tree or tree-hugging in general.

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The pictures will be placed in HaliPuu’s Forest in Your Pocket app, where they can be explored by map location.

A winner will be selected based on “the deep feeling conveyed in the tree-hug, and the creativity and fun in the picture” and will be named on August 30. Their prize will be an invitation to compete at the Tree-hugging World Championships 2021.

Dima from Ukraine takes part in the first Tree-hugging World Championships in the HaliPuu Forest. Photo: Photo: Eat Shoot Drive

Thrown in will be a week of free accommodation (sponsored by Visit Levi) and a private Arctic Cocooning experience with members of the small tourism company HaliPuu (Finnish for “hugging a tree”).

Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and hug a tree.