Good news. This year’s Capitol Christmas Tree has made its way from Oregon’s Willamette National Forest to stand tall at the West Front of the United States Capitol. The tree’s two-week journey to Washington followed the reverse passage of pioneers on the Oregon Trail, arriving this morning. The tree lighting ceremony is set for December 5 this year.
Here’s all you need to know about this great holiday tradition:
Where is the tree from this year?
This year’s U.S. Capitol Tree hails from the great state of Oregon. The tree, a noble fir, was chosen from Willamette National Forest’s more than 1.6 million acres. Nestled against Oregon’s Cascade Range, the Forest symbolizes the richness of both the state’s and country’s wilderness and is a fitting choice for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Systems Act. The state is also sending more than 70 additional trees and 10,000 ornaments to adorn places in D.C. with Christmas decorations.
How did it get here?
The tree has traveled more than 3,000 miles by truck, crossing through 10 states and tracing the reverse path of the Oregon Trail taken by pioneers 175 years ago. A local trucking company from the tree’s home state was entrusted with making sure it reaches D.C. safely—a charge one of the drivers called the “event of a lifetime.”
The tree has made stops in at least 25 different communities along the way, met with celebrations in each town (check out some of the festivities here: Sweet Home, OR; Perry, KS; Nebraska City, NE). Hosting the tree allows communities to join in the holiday spirit, showcase their local pride, and celebrate what brings us together—truly making this the “People’s Tree.”
Is this one of those old congressional traditions?
Well, you have to go back to 1913 to find the first inklings of a Capitol Christmas Tree celebration, but the modern tradition really begins in 1964. Speaker John McCormack had a Pennsylvania fir planted on the West Front Lawn. That tree was only able to weather a few years out there, and ever since 1970, the Department of Agriculture has provided trees from our national forests. Here is a full list.
When will they light the tree?
This year’s tree lighting ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. on December 6, 2018. Hosted by the Architect of the Capitol, the ceremony will bring together the Oregon congressional delegation along with congressional leadership, and will culminate in Speaker Ryan lighting the tree. To help flip the switch, he will be joined by fourth-grader Brigette Harrington of Hillsboro, Oregon. Brigette earned the honor by winning a contest with a poem on her love for Oregon’s outdoors (read it here). You will be able to watch the ceremony live on speaker.gov/live.