Lighting up the Spirit, The Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony Brings Joy

July 17, 2011

   There are a lot of traditions that can become a wonderful part of the holiday spirit. Looking at the neighborhood Christmas lights, decorating your own tree at home for the holiday, singing Christmas Carols, giving gifts, or a nice holiday meal; these are all wonderful ways to spend your holiday time.

United States Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony - December 5, 2007

There are often parades, beautiful pageants, bazaars, special religious observances, and special times with family. These are all part of the Christmas holiday spirit. One of the prettiest events is beholding a Christmas tree when it is lit up for the first time. In many metropolitan areas of the United States there is often a Tree Lighting ceremony for the town or city tree. Of course, nothing beats putting up your own tree, and lighting it up for your family, your kids, or your neighbors to see.

 There was no exception last year (and every year) in the Washington DC area, where at least four or five major decorated tree lighting ceremonies were held. There was the National Christmas Tree lighting, followed by the United States Capitol Christmas Tree lighting, then at various locations in the surrounding areas. For example, the Georgetown Tree lighting ceremony, or the Norwegian Christmas at Union Station, were all held last year. There might even be some tree lighting ceremonies in your city for the holiday.


The Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony


The Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony has been a part of the Washington DC holiday tradition dating back to the earliest versions of the tree. It is an integral part of the celebration.

 The Capitol Christmas Tree is different from the National Christmas Tree which is the tree that adorns the west lawn of the White House. The Capitol’s Tree is truly the “People’s Tree” inasmuch as it sits on the grounds of the Capitol Dome, which is the home to our lawmakers and the representatives that we elect to the Congress of the United States. It is also representative of our country because every year one of the states is chosen to donate the tree from a National Forest in that state.

 In a sense, the donated tree is uniquely representative of that state, and is a gift of the people from that state to the rest of the nation. This Tree lighting ceremony proudly displays thousands of lights, thousands of handmade ornaments from the donor state, and is often accompanied by a song or anthem composed by some artist in that state.

 The Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony will surely be a much watched event this year. In addition to the above, some lucky child from California will be selected to flip the switch to the lights along with the Speaker of the House.

In 2011, the tree will come from California; it will be a 60 foot tree from the Stanislaus National Forest in Sonora, CA. The tree will be a red fir and several candidates will be preselected from the forest in the lovely Sierra Nevada mountain range. The head groundskeeper from the Capitol building will make the final selection decision. The cutting ceremony will be held in November of 2011, followed by careful loading onto trucks for the twenty day journey from within California to the District of Columbia.

Before it leaves California, the fabulous tree will tour a number of cities and towns in California for eight days. The tree will be transported in a carriage apparatus so that all of the branches and the structure of the tree will be left intact. At the root of the tree, a large rubber covering will be filled with 60 gallons of water on a daily basis. After leaving California, it will travel an additional twelve days, stopping over in selected US cities.

Along the way, the tree will be accompanied by US officials and protected by Federal law enforcement agencies. The tree will travel by a large truck with a second truck needed just to carry the decorations. At least 7,000 handmade ornaments will be in that semi and over 10,000 LED lights will illuminate the tree.

The tree will travel across the Nation for 4,500 miles and arrive just after Thanksgiving in the Nation’s Capitol. This will be followed by the tree decorating and lighting ceremony. Thousands will surely be on hand to witness this beautiful tree on display.

Current Plans:

July 14-31 - California Shines! Booth at California State Fair
August 1 – Art Contest Due Date
August 12 – Song Search Due Date
August 31 – Ornaments due
August 31 – Art Contest Winner Announced
September 10 – California Shines! Booth 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.

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


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