Christmas on Wheels is coming! 25 Facts about DC’s National & Capitol Christmas Tree Celebration!

Are you hearing bike bells or jingle bells? No matter, the holiday season is just around the corner and with it comes our highly anticipated Christmas on Wheels tours! Our Christmas on Wheels by bike or Segway tours are a fabulous opprutunity to shift into holiday spirit and try something diffferent to celebrate with your loved ones. Under the watchful eye of a local guide, you’ll experience quintessential Christmas in Washington.  Tour highlights include the Botanical Gardens Holiday Showcase; a hot chocolate stop; the exquisite decorations at the Willard Hotel and of course the Capitol and National Christmas Trees! Snap the perfect family photo as tour guides share yuletide stories about what it’s like to spend Christmas at the White House.

Book a tour today with code SANTA2019 for 10% off! 

Got your eggnog ready? Great! Let’s get rolling with 25 National Christmas Tree facts!

  1. The National Christmas Tree celebration began in 1923, under First Lady Grace Coolidge.
    • The tree was donated by Middlebury College in Coolidge’s home state of Vermont.
  2. The National Christmas Tree was petitioned to the White House and organized by DC Public Schools!
  3. The tree was originally in the ellipse south of the White House.
  4. The location of the tree has varied over the decades.  During the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt had two Fraser fir trees planted in Lafayette Park next to the Andrew Jackson statue with the hope that they would be the national trees.
    • FDR later moved the National Christmas Tree lighting to the South Lawn of the White House for a “more homey” celebration.
  5. From 1954 to 1956, the Christmas tree lighting was re-branded to the “Christmas Pageant of Peace” under President Eisenhower.
  6. During the Christmas Pagent of Peace, a tree was presented from each state to represent all 50 states.
  7. In the early days of Christmas tree lighting, strings of lights were not avalible.
    • Each bulb had to be installed individually and routinely checked. This also posed a fire hazard and to ensure the President’s safefty, a fire truck was never too far from the White House.
  8. Throughout the 1950s, lighting designers would dress in Santa costumes to light and decorate the trees.
  9. After the assasination of President Kennedy, the lighting of the National Christmas Tree was postponed until the 30 day period of national mourning had passed. 
  10. In 1953, General Electric (or, GE) committed to designing the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.
  11. Strings of lights were not used by GE until 2007. The switch was made to ensure the lighting is more energy efficient.
    • General Electric achieved an overall 81.9% reduction in energy consumption compared to the energy used for the 1972 tree. In order to conserve energy, the tree was decorated primarily with non-energy-using decorations such as garlands and balls. Floodlights at the base of the tree provided light and accented the ornaments.
  12. The Capitol Christmas Tree: Tradition is relatively recent.  Began in 1964 when Speaker of the House John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live tree on the Capitol lawn.  Stayed there for 3 years before succumbing to wind and root damage.
  13. The Capitol Christmas Tree is known as “The People’s Tree.”
    • Because of the ornaments.  The National Christmas Tree at the White House has ornaments representing each state made by selected artists.  The Capitol Christmas Tree decorations are handmade by children from the host state.
    • This tree is decorated by voulenteers.
  14. In 1970, the Capitol Architect asked the Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree, so since then, a new tree has been chosen every year.
  15. The Tallest Tree is a tie between the 2013 Engelmann Spruce from Colville National Forest (Washington) and the 2014 White Spruce from Chippewa National Forest (Minnesota); both measured 88 feet.
  16. Farthest travelled: 2015 Lutz Spruce from Chugach National Forest in Alaska – travelled more than 4,000 miles. 
    • Notably, this is the only tree to travel by boat!
  17. Michigan has provided the most Christmas trees for the lighting celebrations. They have contributed 5 trees.
  18. A push for living trees: A grassroots campaign started by American Citizens in 1965 to encourage the White House to opt for a living tree. They argued this option was more envionmentally consious. 
  19. First living tree: A 42 foot Colorado Blue Spruce from Shickshinny, Pennsylvania was donated by the National Arborist Association and was planted in the Ellipse. 
    • There have been 3 living trees.
  20. During this holiday season, we also celebrate Chanukah with the lighting of the National Menorah.  In 1979, Rabbi Abraham Shemhov, leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, asked for a permit to place a giant menorah near the White House.
  21. Last year’s tree came from the Willamette National Forest in Oregon. The tree traveled from Oregon to DC on a reverse path of the Oregon Trail, in celebration of its 175th anniversary
  22. Last year’s tree came from the Willamette National Forest in Oregon. The tree traveled from Oregon to DC on a reverse path of the Oregon Trail, in celebration of its 175th anniversary.
  23. The 2019 Tree is from Carson National Forest in New Mexico.  Will be harvested on November 6th and will start its journey to DC on November 11th.
  24. This is the second tree from Carson National Forest. The first one was in 1991.
  25. Want more fun facts? USE CODE SANTA2019 FOR 10% OFF YOUR TOUR!