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capitol christmas tree

The Brightest Gem in Washington isn't the Hope Diamond, it's the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

The American public doesn’t have to sneak a peek at the Christmas present the U.S. Forest Service has given them this year because it’s on full display just below the U.S. Capitol dome on the building’s West Lawn.

A gift from the Forest Service’s Payette National Forest, this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, aptly titled “An Idaho Mountain Gem”, was twinkling like a million facets of a bejeweled royal scepter after Isabella Gerard, a fifth grader from Boise, Idaho, who was chosen to do this honor by winning an poem contest, flipped the switch to illume the great tree.

A Dazzling Gem from Idaho Arrives on Capitol Hill

You know Christmas is right around the corner when images of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree being hoisted from a very long tractor trailer show up on your social media apps and on TV.

An ongoing American tradition since 1964, this year, the great tree called fondly by its fans “An Idaho Mountain Gem,” comes from the Payette National Forest near McCall, Idaho.

It's Christmas All Year in Idaho

The annual tradition of providing a Christmas tree for the U.S. Capitol got an early start last month at the McCall, Idaho, Winter Carnival. The Payette National Forest is providing the 2016 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, historically and fondly known as “The People’s Tree,” which will adorn the West Lawn of Capitol Hill in December.

It seemed fitting to stage the kick-off event in McCall because the forest surrounds the city. The public event, which swells the town of 3,000 to as many as 60,000 people, has many activities including building larger-than-life snow sculptures. This year employees and friends of the Payette National Forest built an ice sculpture to celebrate their People’s Tree’s eventual arrival in Washington, D.C.

The Chugach Children's Forest is Transforming Lives for Future Generations

“If you were to tell me three years ago that in two years, I would be camping a couple feet away from a glacier and kayaking next to icebergs, I would tell you that you are out of your mind,” said Isabel Azpilcueta.

But life takes us in unexpected directions, and that is exactly what Isabel – a Chugach Children’s Forest alumni – found herself doing during a Habitat Restoration Kayaking Expedition on the Chugach National Forest, in Alaska.

Northern Lights Shine on Capitol Hill

When U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan asked Anna Devolld, a ten year old child from Alaska, to flip the switch, a momentary hush came across the crowd as thousands of lights on a massive tree illumined the West Lawn just below both Houses of Congress.

More than a year of planning went into the lighting of the first US Capitol Christmas Tree from Alaska. Hand crafted ornaments made by hundreds of children and other folks in Alaska now bask in the glow of thousands of lights on the 74 ft. Lutz spruce harvested from the US Forest Service’s Chugach National Forest.

A Giant Christmas Tree's 4000 Mile Journey from Alaska to Capitol Hill

For over 90 years the majestic Lutz spruce stood silently in the Chugach National Forest near Seward, Alaska.

Hidden from most tourists, except intrepid hikers, the spruce, as high as a seven story building, would have aged in obscurity but for a stroke of luck: this Lutz spruce was chosen among the more than five million acres of the Chugach’s wooded forests to be the proverbial “People’s Tree” and grace the slope of the West Lawn on Capitol Hill just beneath the soaring white dome that unites both wings of Congress.

Even Paul Bunyan is Overshadowed by the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree - and a Precious 10-year-old Boy

A foggy mist did not deter a crowd of onlookers, politicians and U.S. Forest Service employees as a 10-year-old Maryland boy in a wheelchair enveloped by warm blankets flipped the switch to light the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Front lawn of the nation’s Capital.

C-SPAN recorded the event, including the moment when Speaker of the House John Boehner handed the controls to Aaron Urban, who flipped the switch on the 88-foot white spruce from Minnesota. The ceremony culminated more than a year of work to find, select, harvest and transport the tree found on the Chippewa National Forest. Children from that state made more than 10,000 ornaments – many of them dream catchers in the tradition of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwa.

Ready, Set, Lights! U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Delivered, Decorated and Ready to Shine

After a 2,700-mile, 30-stop journey from Minnesota, the 88-foot white spruce tree harvested from the Chippewa National Forest is delivered, set up in Washington, D.C., decorated by Architect of the Capitol employees and ready for the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2.

Speaker of the House John Boehner will light the tree on the Capitol's West Front, where it will remain lit from dusk until 11 p.m. daily through Jan. 1. The tree is a gift from the American people, hence the moniker “The People’s Tree.” Hundreds of people attend the lighting ceremony.

Milwaukee Welcomes the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, Salutes Veterans

Despite the rain and freezing temperatures, there was warmth and good cheer in the hearts of everyone who came out to catch a glimpse of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and help transform Milwaukee’s Cathedral Square Park into Community Spirit Park on Veteran’s Day.

The fanfare also helped to honor past and present members of the Armed Forces, some of who were on hand to see a holiday bedecked park with a 50-lighted tree, Milwaukee’s Color Guard waving American flags and a larger than life 90-foot tractor trailer parked nearby.

U.S. Forest Service Harvests 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Minnesota

On a cold afternoon in late October, about 500 people, including local area third graders who had made ornaments for it, gathered to witness the cutting of the 88-foot, 13,000-pound 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the Chippewa National Forest in north central Minnesota.

To help stay warm and nourished, attendees were offered hot chocolate or coffee, a wild rice dish, fruit, sandwich wraps and cookies, all courtesy of the Leech Land Band of Ojibwe. The official festivities began with Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Spiritual Advisor Larry Aitken blessing the Tree, distinguished guests sharing their congratulations, and poignant drumming performances by two groups of tribal youth; one group was accompanied by young tribal dancers in full regalia.