National Christmas Tree
December 19, 2002
The National Christmas Tree is a live 40-foot Colorado blue spruce transplanted from York, Pennsylvania to its present site, just south of the White House (on the Ellipse) in Washington, D.C. In the mid 1920s, the first live National Christmas tree was planted. A number of replacement trees were planted over the years, but most weren't up to the heat and humidity of Washington's summers. The current tree is a hardy specimen that for 24 years has proved a worthy match for the bad weather and disease that did in its predecessors. Blue spruces (Picea pungens) are perhaps the most handsome Christmas trees, and their stiff branches and twigs hold ornaments beautifully. However, when cut, they tend not to hold their needles as well as firs or Scotch pines.
Each year, the National Christmas Tree is decorated differently by General Electric designers using thousands of lights designed specifically for this event. They also provide the lights for the 56 state and territorial trees nearby the National Tree. Opening ceremonies for this year's Pageant of Peace (when the National Christmas Tree is illuminated) were held just after sunset on December 5, shortly after a snowstorm blanketed Washington with 6 inches (15 cm) of snow.