I’ve been to countless events in Lansing throughout my childhood and was looking for a few new ways to celebrate when I learned that the official 2014 United States Capitol Christmas Tree would be making a stop at Michigan State University on November 14 before continuing its tour to Washington, D.C. I had NO idea that the U.S. Capitol had an official Christmas tree and decided to do some research.
The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, also known as “The People’s Tree,” began in 1964 when John McCormack from the U.S. House of Representatives placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. Since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has been providing the Capitol with a Christmas tree from a different national forest each year. The 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree is a White Spruce (Picea glauca) from the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota. The Minnesota Tree Growers Association will also be providing 70 companion trees to be placed inside offices in Washington D.C. The 80ft+ white spruce left the Chippewa Forest in early November followed by a caravan of caretakers on a 20,000 mile journey to the Capitol, stopping in more than 30 communities along the way.
The MSU Department of Forestry and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources hosted the Capitol Christmas Tree in mid-November, boasting that the tree would be on display along with a myriad of other activities for visitors centered on forests, natural Christmas trees, and the holiday season. MSU forestry students were also to be on site leading elementary students through planting seedlings to take home with them as a memento of their visit with the Capitol tree.
I ventured to Michigan State’s campus on a particularly blustery afternoon, with a hot coffee in hand, ecstatic to see the soon to be legendary 80 ft Christmas tree. The U.S. Christmas tree was housed in a very large green and white semi truck nestled behind a few of the companion trees that had been set up for the speeches earlier in the day. There was a large banner hanging from a crane depicting the tree as it had been before the cutting ceremony as well as a window near the back of the semi where visitors could view a portion of the Capitol tree.
Looking back, it makes sense that the tree would be kept in a controlled environment where caretakers could keep a closer watch during the tree’s trek across the country, but I was quite disappointed in the event overall. The school children all appeared in good spirits planting their seedlings and taking turns writing their names on the semi, but there was little to do for the older visitors. I’m still glad that I attended part of the tour and was able to at least be in the presence of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, but I think I’ll be sticking to Silver Bells in The City for my favorite holiday event!
What’s your favorite local holiday event to attend?