US Capitol Christmas Tree steeped in tradition
The end of year presents a season that generates enthusiasm, a heightened sense of good will and deep traditions. It’s only appropriate that our leaders would develop a way to focus the nation’s attention, ever so briefly, on a beautiful symbol of the season – the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.
Every December, the Speaker of the House hosts a lighting ceremony on the U.S. Capitol grounds. With a simple flip of a switch roughly 10,000 lights bring the tree to life.
Hundreds of people attend the lighting ceremony but many more thousands watch the ceremony on television.While seemingly short-lived, this annual tradition is steeped in history and each year takes up to two years of planning.
Hundreds of people attend the lighting ceremony but many more thousands watch the ceremony on television.
While seemingly short-lived, this annual tradition is steeped in history and each year takes up to two years of planning.
Speaker of the House of Representatives John W. McCormack began the tradition 1964. The first tree, a live Douglas-fir purchased for $700 from Buddies Nursery in Birdsboro, Penn., and planted on the front lawn of the Capitol. That tree survived through the 1967 celebration but succumbed to wind and root damage.
In 1968 and 1969, the Capitol Christmas Trees were assembled by combining a pair of eastern white pine trees, but that proved cumbersome and ultimately unsatisfactory.
So, in early 1970 the Capitol Architect turned to the U.S. Forest Service for help. Since then, the annual tradition has become an honor for one national forest, which then works with partners throughout the state where the tree will be harvested. The community buildup starts roughly a year in advance with a song writing contests, videos, and thousands of state residents helping to make ornaments that will adorn the tree.
The grass-roots community effort to give the gift to all Americans is one reason it is referred to as “The People’s Tree.”