Thursday, December 01, 2005

Competitive Christmas Trees

Following up on the restoration of the Capitol Christmas Tree, The Washington Post reports on competition among trees:

According to the calendar of official Washington, the holiday season kicks off tonight, when the president and first lady flip the switch to light thousands of bulbs on the Colorado blue spruce on the Ellipse, the one the White House declares the nation's official Christmas tree.

Except New York flipped the switch last night for the tree at Rockefeller Plaza. It was, said some steeped in the tree wars, a careful, calculated decision to preempt the president...

The Washington-New York rivalry is legendary. But inside the Beltway, there is another tree duel: the White House vs. the Congress.

The National Christmas Tree is elaborately decorated and lighted by General Electric Co. There are snowflakes, a giant model train and singers, dancers, movie stars and TV personalities.

The event has evolved since the first tree was decorated in 1913. The lighting became a presidential ceremony in 1923, when White House aides told a somewhat reclusive Calvin Coolidge they couldn't afford an extension cord that would reach from the tree to his office...

In the 1960s, Congress decided it was time for a Capitol tree. After several failed attempts to cultivate live trees, the U.S. Forest Service delivered a 40-foot Norway spruce from West Virginia in 1970, giving birth to an annual tradition.

The Capitol tree comes from a different national forest every year, and states jockey to donate. They form fundraising committees and throw fundraising galas, in the manner of political campaigns.

Once chosen and cut down, after an appraisal from the Capitol landscaper, the tree is taken on a tour of small-town hot chocolate and caroling festivals before arriving at Capitol Hill.

Recently, the rivaly has calmed down:
This year, with a White House and congressional majority that generally agree, the discussions are civil. "It is an unspoken rule that the National Tree is lit first these days," [David] Curfman said. The Capitol tree ceremony will be next Thursday.
For more on the White House - Capitol rivalry, the rest of the article is here. I look forward to visiting both trees, probably long before the baby panda.

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