The Capitol Christmas Tree (formerly the Capitol Holiday Tree) is the decorated tree that is erected annually on the West Front Lawn of the United States Capitol, in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the Christmas holiday season. The selection, installation, and decoration of the tree are all overseen by the Superintendent of the Capitol Grounds of the Architect of the Capitol (AOC).
The Capitol Christmas Tree should not to be confused with the National Christmas Tree , which is planted near the White House and lighted every year by the president and first lady. The Speaker of the House officially lights the Capitol Christmas Tree.
Records of the AOC indicate that a Christmas Tree was purchased in 1919; however, it was not until 1964, one year after the suggestion of John W. McCormack, the 53rd Speaker of the House, that a procedure was established for the installation of a yearly tree.
A Capitol Christmas Tree has been an American tradition since 1964. The first tree was a live 24-foot Douglas fir planted on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC. The original Capitol Christmas Tree died after the 1968 tree lighting ceremony due to a severe wind storm and root damage. The tree was removed and the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service has provided the trees since 1969. The 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree will be harvested from the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota. Companion trees will be provided by the Minnesota Tree Growers Association to be placed inside offices in Washington DC.
Renaming Capitol Holiday Tree to Capitol Christmas Tree:
In the late 1990s, the Capitol Christmas Tree was renamed to the Capitol Holiday Tree. There was never a clear explanation as to why the name change occurred, but the name change raised controversy. On November 29, 2005, the day after the 2005 tree arrived from New Mexico, the tree was renamed the Capitol Christmas Tree at the request of Dennis Hastert, the 59th Speaker of the House.
West Lawn of the U. S. Capitol, Constitution and Independence Avenues, Washington, DC. Access for the lighting ceremony will be from First Street and Maryland Avenue SW and First Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, where guests will proceed through security.
Parking near the U. S. Capitol Building is restricted. The best way to get to the area is by metro. The closest stops are located at Union Station, Federal Center S.W. or Capitol South.
The Capitol Christmas Tree will be lit from dusk until 11 p.m. each evening through the holiday season. As part of the Architect of the Capitol’s continuing commitment to save energy, strands of LED (Light Emitting Diodes) lights will be used to decorate the entire tree. LED lights use little electricity, have an extremely long life-span, and are environmentally friendly.