Around the country, the leaves are changing to hues of gold and orange, the air is getting crisp and cool, and the days are becoming shorter; all indicators that the winter holidays are nearly upon us. Certainly the holidays hold many moments of enchantment, but one of the most fascinating parts about the holidays in my opinion? The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree tour. While I’ve never been a part of the tour myself, this year I’ve been a part of some of the amazing behind-the-scenes happenings as the team gears up for the month of November.
If you haven’t heard about the Capitol Christmas Tree, let me give you a little insight into this much-loved and anticipated American tradition. It all started in 1964, when speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John W. McCormack (D-MA), planted a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. The inaugural Capitol Christmas Tree didn’t survive past three season, but the idea and concept around the tree stuck, thus the “People’s Tree” was born. Each holiday season since, the USDA, Forest Service selects and delivers a Spruce, Fir, or Pine tree to represent the country as the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington D.C. The chosen tree is not an ordinary tree; it is a handpicked specimen from a national forest, and with the help of thousands of people it is transported to the capitol, making many stops along the way as onlookers stand in awe.
The Capitol Christmas Tree arrives in Washington D.C. roughly a month after its initial departure from the forest. Upon arrival at its place of honor, the tree is decorated with thousands of unique ornaments donated by people from all over the country. From classrooms to nursing homes, the tree is decorated from head-to-toe, with a little piece from every corner of Idaho.
What’s truly special about the tree is the connections it builds between people—between communities. From the very beginning, the tree has a support system, people who come to help remove and transport the tree. People who plan for months to make sure that the tree can be seen by as many people as possible while on it’s tour. As the tree makes its way across the country, local communities come out to support the tree and see the regal tree in all its glory. For many, it’s a tradition that began during their childhood. They waited with their families for the Capitol Christmas Tree to stop in their town, and today they bring their own children. Each year the photos archived are filled with smiles. Young smiles and wrinkly smiles that beam American Pride and anticipation of the season.
This American tradition has not been a tradition for some, but a tradition for many, bringing old and new faces together with the U.S. National Forest Service and Choose Outdoors. Don’t take my word for it though—check out the list of cities that the 2016 People’s Tree, an 80-foot, Englemann Spruce from Payette National Forest will be passing through. With over twenty-five stops in communities along its 4000-mile trek, perhaps one of them will be near enough so that you can be a part of the magic!
Written by Olivia Tinney