Appreciating all that makes America special

Americana: National Christmas Tree

We've had a National Christmas Tree every year since 1923. Uploaded by

Okay, first let’s get this formality out of the way. It’s not a holiday tree. There are no trees associated with Hanukkah or Ramadan. And it’s not a religious symbol. It’s a part of the American cultural celebration, and it’s a Christmas tree.

We can’t think of much that Calvin Coolidge accomplished while in office, but he did start the tradition of the National Christmas Tree. He lit the first National Tree in 1923, and even chose the location it’s occupied for most of the intervening years, on the Ellipse in Washington, DC.

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Other interesting facts about the tradition include: The celebration was televised for the first time in 1946… For many years, it was called the National Christmas Community Tree… Although the President usually lights the tree, several Vice Presidents have had the honor over the years… In 1963, the tree wasn’t lit until December 22, after a 30-day mourning period for assassinated President John Kennedy… The ceremony surrounding the lighting is called the Pageant of Peace.

This year, the 40-foot Colorado blue spruce was lit on December 3 by President Obama along with the First Lady and their two daughters. Performers at the celebration included Sheryl Crow, Celtic Woman, and Jordin Sparks, and a special guy named Santa Claus showed up for the occasion.


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