Skip to main content

50 Years of Christmas Cheer as a New Tree is Cut for Capitol Hill

Posted by Robert Hudson Westover, USDA Forest Service Office of Communications in Forestry
Nov 04, 2020
The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree after last year’s lighting ceremony on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree after last year’s lighting ceremony on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. (USDA Forest Service photo)

When most people think of the lighting of a national Christmas tree, they are often thinking of the ceremony near the White House during which the President flips a switch and lights the tree.

Yes, it’s a pretty sight. But just down the road on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, a more magnificent tree – in my biased opinion – is illumined every year by the Speaker of the House of the U.S. House of Representatives for all Americans to see. Making this tree that much more special is the fact that for 50 years, the Christmas tree on Capitol Hill is brought to us as a gift from one of our national forests.

Handmade ornaments for the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree
For decades, every U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is festooned with handmade ornaments by children of the hosting state. The above photo is an example of some of the thousands of beautiful ornaments made just for this year’s tree. (USDA Forest Service photo)

Adding to the beauty and magic of the tree are thousands of handmade ornaments created just for this Christmas tree by the children of Colorado. So, for these and other reasons, the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree gets the honorary title of being called The Peoples’ Tree.

Now, after over a year of planning, the time has come to harvest the 55’ tall and 25’ wide Engelman Spruce, from the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests.

The cutting ceremony, held virtually this year, will be on the GMUG National Forests and include brief remarks by USDA Forest Service leadership, local elected officials and project partners. A livestream of the ceremony and cutting will be available on the GMUG National Forests Facebook page.

The cutting ceremony will begin this Thursday at 2:30 p.m., Mountain Time. Once the tree is cut, it will be lifted by cranes and secured to a trailer before being transported off the forest.

Once wrapped and secured, the tree will begin its journey to Washington, D.C., on Nov. 10.

The tree will visit 10 communities for a series of outdoor festivities hosted by local communities at fair grounds, schools, main streets, visitor centers, convention centers and retailers. Well-wishers will have a chance to take photos, sign banners on the sides of the truck, learn more about the GMUG National Forests, the State of Colorado and more. Festivities are free and open to the public.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree initiative is a 50-year tradition in which one of our 155 national forests provides a tree for the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for the holiday season. The project is made possible with support from partners including the nonprofit Choose Outdoors and Colorado Tourism along with cash and in-kind contributions from companies of all sizes, as well as volunteers. For a list of 2020 sponsors and to follow the tree’s journey across America, visit www.uscapitolchristmastree.com and @uscapitolchristmastree on Facebook and Instagram.

U.S. Capitol Christmas tree 2020 logo
Another tradition for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is that every year the host forest helps design a logo to brand and commemorate their gift to the nation’s capital. (USDA Forest Service graphic)
Category/Topic: Forestry

Write a Response

CAPTCHA This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Comments

Eugene M Schwarz
Nov 16, 2020

This is great coverage! My family asked where have trees come from in the past. Is there a list that states where trees have come from for the past 25 years?

Ben Weaver
Nov 16, 2020

@Eugene M Schwarz - thank you for your comment. The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or "The People’s Tree," began in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. In 1970, the Capitol Architect asked USDA, Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. You can see each national forest that has been chosen each year to provide ‘The People’s Tree’ since 1964 here: www.uscapitolchristmastree.com/history.html.