Lighting Ceremony of the Capitol Christmas Tree

June 20, 2011

A Capitol Christmas tree has adorned the west lawn of the Capitol building every holiday season since 1964.  Not to be confused with the National Christmas tree which is on the grounds of the White House, the Capitol Christmas tree is a pretty sight among the annual holiday festivities in Washington DC every year.

The tree itself makes a long journey from whatever state has chosen to be that year’s donor of the tree. After a cutting ceremony in that State, the tree is brought to the nation’s capitol to be displayed at the Capitol building for about a month during the Christmas season. The trees are brought in from a National forest from that year’s chosen state. In 2010, the Capitol Christmas tree was harvested in the Bridger-Teton National Forest of the state of Wyoming.    Each year, the tree is decorated with numerous lights and ornaments that are meant to depict scenes or lifestyles and history of the State from whence it came.

In 2010, Wyoming school children made over 5,000 ornaments reflecting that State’s theme of Wyoming- Forever West–to decorate the tree.  The 67 foot tree also had numerous lights, and as a means to conserve electricity, the tree was lit with LED lights on its numerous branches.  It was quite the sight to see!

This year’s 2011 tree will be selected from the State of California.

The Lighting Ceremony and Drawing to Participate

The lighting ceremony takes place at an announced time and date where some of the Nation’s lawmakers and other dignitaries will gather with great holiday spirit and fanfare.  Anyone is invited to also attend the festivities, and many do, every year.  In place and ready to turn on the lights of the tree, is the Speaker of the House.  Last year this was Nancy Pelosi.  This year it will be John Boehner who is the 61st Speaker of the House.  He will share his lighting duty with a California child somewhere between the ages of five and seventeen, who was chosen after entering a drawing.

This year’s (2011) 60 foot tree will also have 5,000 handmade ornaments, and 2,000 more are being made.  This is because California has also been asked to provide a number of smaller trees to decorate government offices throughout the Capitol.

The theme for this year’s tree will be “California Shines” and a special song is being developed.  With that theme, this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree will surely be outfitted with numerous lights– so as to shine in those winter nights with a brilliance that does America proud!

US Capital Christmas Tree 2011, “California Shines” Coming Events:

  • 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony – For Young Californians, between the ages of 5 and 17 are eligible to enter a drawing to win an all-expense paid trip for him/herself and an accompanying parent or guardian to Washington, D.C. participating in the 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in early December. Together with Speaker of the House John Boehner, the selected California youth will culminate the ceremony by lighting the 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree. This 60 foot tree is California’s gift to the nation from the Stanislaus National Forest. This holiday event will kick off the 2011 holiday season creating memories that will inspire and last a lifetime. Only one entry per person. Must be postmarked by September 30, 2011. Download your application here.
  • June 30 – “Califonia Shines” Ornament Campaign – Submit your ornaments to be received by June 30 2011 – Ornaments due more info here
  • July 7-10 – California Shines! Booth will be at Tuolumne County Fair
  • July 14-31 – California Shines! Booth will be at California State Fair
  • July 15 – Song Search Due Date – The Capital Christmas Tree, “California Shines” The official song will be performed at the “California Shines Tree Cutting Celebration” in Sonora, California on November 5, 2011, AND at the Forest Service Chief’s Reception in Washington, D.C. in early December; expenses paid. more info here
  • August 1 – Art Contest Due Date – “California Shines” California Artists are encouraged to consider the theme to conceptualize the vision of a 60 foot tall California Christmas Tree destined for the Nation’s Capitol. Get entry forms and more info here August 31 – The Art Contest Winner will be Announced.
  • September 10 – California Shines! Booth will be at Tuolumne Me-Wuk 100th Anniversary Acorn Festival
  • November 5-6 – Tree Cutting celebration at the Sonora Fairgrounds
  • November 8 – California Tour Begins
  • November 15 – Cross Country Tour Begins – First Stop, Flagstaff, AZ
  • November 28 – Tree Arrives in Washington, D.C.
  • December “Early” Tree Lighting Ceremony Dont miss this incredable event.

At every event and celebration for the 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree we will be collecting non-perishable food to be donated to a local food bank. This is an important part of our program to give back to the communities who participate in this celebration.

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