This year's Capitol Christmas Tree is ready to be lit, and we for one are excited about it. (Heck, I started writing this post three months ago.) Rain or shine, the tree lighting ceremony gets underway tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. ET, and it will air on speaker.gov/live.
Every year, the Architect of the Capitol and the U.S. Forest Service work together to select a tree from one of our national forests. This year's edition—an 80-foot Engelmann spruce—comes from Payette National Forest in McCall, Idaho.
After the tree was cut, it began the 2,500-mile journey to the Capitol, stopping for public events in cities and towns along the way. Gary Amoth, the trucker from Twin Falls, Idaho, who drove the tree to the Capitol before daybreak last week, said, “It’s awe-inspiring. If you’ve never been here, as I’ve not, it’s pretty awesome.”
According to the House historian, the modern Capitol Christmas Tree tradition dates back to 1962, when Speaker John McCormack had a tree placed in National Statuary Hall, declaring it “most appropriate that a Christmas tree be placed in the Capitol, which is the heart of legislative activity of our country.” The practice of planting a tree on the West Front began a little later.
The Architect of the Capitol and his team have decorated the tree with ornaments handmade by Idahoans. All told, there are 18,000 ornaments to go on the big tree and 70 companion trees around Capitol Hill.
The tree lighting ceremony is surrounded by events that honor what the season is all about. Every year, we part in an annual toy collection drive organized by the Marine Corps Liaisons for the House of Representatives.
The good tidings
To flip the switch, Speaker Ryan will be joined by Boise fifth-grader Isabella Gerard, who submitted a poem as part of a statewide contest. Here is an excerpt from Isabella's poem: “Idaho is blessed with beautiful mountains and immense forests. In the winter the mountains and forests are covered with snow, making the landscape look like never ending clouds with skyscrapers covered in snow.”
This year's tree will stand in front of the newly restored Capitol Dome, and it will be lit every evening through Christmas night.