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colville national forest

Oh Silent Light of the Capitol Christmas Tree

A crown jewel of American Christmas trees lit the night sky Dec. 3 as thousands of lights burst around the 88-foot-tall 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree. A momentary hush of silent awe overcame the crowd gathered on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol to witness the ceremony that has origins dating back to 1964.

An eight-point star shimmered at the top of the 79-year-old Englemann spruce harvested from the Colville National Forest in Washington State. Decorating the tree are hundreds of ornaments made by people of Washington, many of them drawn and glued together by school children.

US Capitol Christmas Tree has Deep Roots Connecting Americans

As the 88-foot Engelmann spruce is paraded into Washington, D.C., today, Nov. 25, it brings with it an annual tradition that has been rooted in history and shared by millions of Americans for decades.

The 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree is a gift from the Colville National Forest and people living in Washington State. The Washington community raised the money and support needed to help harvest, transport and decorate the tree that will stand on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. They also helped with a collection of smaller trees for various offices in D.C.

The tree will be lit by Speaker of the House John Boehner during a ceremony at 5 p.m. Dec. 3.

Packing the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree for Ride 'Home' is no Easy Feat

The 88-foot Engelmann spruce tree that will grace the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol as a gift from the people must first get from Colville National Forest in Washington State to Washington, D.C.

That means careful packing with special attention paid to cocooning the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree so the thick branches stay intact and nothing hangs over the side of the trailer it is placed on.

“What does it take to wrap an 88-foot-tall Engelmann spruce?” said Franklin Pemberton of the Colville National Forest. “Also a lot of hard-working volunteers, 4,000 feet of parachute cord with a 550-pound breaking strength and a huge building.”

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, a Gift from the People, Headed Toward Washington, D.C.

More than 300 people gathered on in 25-degree weather to witness the harvesting of the 88-foot 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree from the Colville National Forest, the first step in its 5,000 mile journey from Washington State to the U. S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

More than a dozen spotters and equipment operators manipulated the tree into position as the Mack Truck pushed the trailer underneath. The enormity of the Engelmann spruce became apparent as the tree floated above the trailer while a few extra feet from the trunk had to be removed.

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. But first it has to make the journey.