I’ll spend Christmas in Washington, DC this year, away from home. I have seen plenty of gorgeously – or outrageously – decorated houses in north Virginia, but of course the big attraction is the National Christmas Tree near the White House.
Although nice, I must say that the tree paled in comparison to the Rockefeller Center tree and its decorations in NYC, or even the decorations I could see in Texas (I’m pretty sure Austin’s Capitol’s Christmas tree last year was at least the same size).
Here are some pictures and a little bit of history behind the tradition.
Ninety-two years ago, the Ellipse, south of the White House, received its first Christmas tree.
In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, lighted the National Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve in front of 6,000 visitors. The 48-foot fir tree was decorated with 2,500 red, white, and green electric bulbs.
Every year after that, in times of peace and war, Washington, DC would repeat this tradition.
This year, the National Christmas Tree is decorated in honor of the National Park Service Centennial, in sparkling gold and silvery white, the colors used for milestone celebrations.
For the 7th year in a row, it is illuminated by LED lights. There are about 600 LED net lights and icicle lights for a combined 6,000 watts. The lighting has been provided by General Electric for 53 years.
The lighting ceremony took place on December 3rd this year, and is available online if you are interested.
There were also model electric trains all around the tree.
The National Christmas Tree is surrounded by smaller Christmas trees decorated with ornaments made by “ordinary Americans, representing every U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia.”
Here is the Christmas tree for New York, and an ornament.
And here is the Christmas tree, along with ornaments, for Texas.
Not too far, there was also a Nativity scene, and of course, the White House.