We’ve been awaiting its arrival since August, but it’s almost time for the Capitol Christmas Tree to conclude its cross-country trek from Washington State to the nation’s capital. The 88-foot tall Engelmann spruce from Colville National Forest in Colville, WA will take its place in the center of the U.S. Capitol’s West Front lawn and make its glowing debut at a tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday, December 3 at 5 p.m. ET. 

The Capitol Christmas tree tradition dates back to 1964 and continues today with the help of a whole host of staff and volunteers across the country.  Here’s a glimpse at what it takes to get the spruce cut, trimmed and ready for the big day:

‘A Symbol of Good, Will and Love’

Nearly 40 trees were taken into consideration and had to meet the following requirements before being deemed the Capitol Christmas Tree: height, fullness, and branch uniformity.  After forestry technician Cally Davidson narrowed the list down to 10, Ted Bechtol, Superintendent of Grounds at the Capitol, had the final say and chose the spruce that “has the fullness and width needed for the Capitol grounds.”  This year will mark the second time that Washington State has provided the Capitol Christmas Tree and will be the second-tallest tree ever to have the honor.

‘Brings to us all both joy and glee’

In an effort to spread the Christmas cheer to more than just Washingtonians and those in the metropolitan D.C. area, the tree has been making stops (track the tree here) in several cities including Witchita Falls, KS, Little Rock, AR, and Franklin, TN.  The spruce will arrive at its final destination in Washington, D.C. next Monday, November 25th to begin its transformation.

‘Each shining light, each silver bell, no one alive spreads cheer so well’

Once the tree arrives, employees from the Architect of the Capitol’s office will secure it in the ground, then the ground’s crew will decorate its branches with thousands of handcrafted ornaments donated by Washingtonians and designed to reflect this year’s theme, “Sharing Washington’s Good Nature,” which highlights the state’s historical, cultural and natural beauty.

After all the hard work is complete, Speaker Boehner will light the tree with the help of Colville, WA first grader Giovanni Gayner.  Giovanni was one of thousands of students from across Washington State who constructed ornaments and entered to win the trip to Washington, D.C. to flip the switch.

Check back here on Speaker.gov for photos of the arrival of the tree and tune in live at Speaker.gov/live on December 3 at 5 p.m. ET to help us usher in the holiday season.  Until then, enjoy this time-lapse of the arrival of the tree in 2011.