The Fab Four: Famous Real Christmas Trees
Christmas trees spruce up our homes and light up the holidays. But there is nothing more magical than a giant conifer – the following are four famous trees that celebrate the season.
Every year on November 30, the National Christmas Tree Association presents the White House with the famous Blue Room Christmas Tree. The tree is always selected from a domestic grower of real Christmas trees – this year’s tree is a Frasier fir from North Carolina. Fun fact: the tree for the blue room must only be 18.5 feet tall and 58 inches wide to fit through the doorway of the blue room.
The National Christmas Tree has a rich history dating back to 1889. The National Christmas Tree stands in the Ellipse of the White House and is part of the Pathway of Peace - where there is one tree for every nation in the United States. The current tree is a Colorado Blue Spruce fern that was planted in 1978. In early December, the President of the United States lights the tree, in a nationally televised event that kicks off the Pagent of Peace. On two notable occasions the tree was not lit. In 1979, President Carter left the tree dark stating it would remain so until the American hostages in Iran were set free. The following year, the tree was only lit for 417 seconds, one second for each day of captivity. When the hostages were released in January, the tree was again lit.
The Capitol Holiday Tree stands on the west lawn of the US Capitol. Since 1964, a tree is harvested from one of the country’s national forests each year and put on display. This year’s hand-picked tree comes from Montana and is a 73-foot Subalpine Fir tree. Cut on November first, the tree traveled over 4,000 miles and gathered 44,000 signatures on the side of its 80-foot trailer. The tree is lighted in a ceremony early in the season, and remains lit until New Year’s Day.
Perhaps the most famous of real Christmas trees is the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City. Stories say that during the construction of Rockefeller Center during the Depression, workers decorated a small tree with paper, berries, and tin cans. Now, every year since 1933, an enormous tree is placed at the base of the RCA building and lit in a grand ceremony televised on NBC. Four guy wires hold the enormous tree in place, which at a minimum is 65 feet high (the tallest tree ever was 100 feet high). Scouted by helicopter each year, this year’s tree is a 72-foot Norway spruce, weighing eight tons. The tree was planted by the Varanyak family in 1931, after it was used by the family as their holiday tree. Bill Varanyak says his mother used to always say that one day, it was going to be the Rockefeller Center tree.
The tree is lit in early December and stays bright until New Years Day - it takes some five miles of lights to decorate it. Since 2004, a 550-pound Swarovski crystal star sits up top. This year, the 75th Rockefeller Center tree has “gone green” - the tree was cut by hand with a two-man saw, the area was re-planted and carbon offsets purchased, LED lights were used (and are partially powered by a solar farm), and after New Year’s the tree will be recycled for Habitat for Humanity.
If you are looking for the perfect place for your next Christmas vacation, consider Washington, D.C. or New York City. Rich in history and tradition, these famous real Christmas trees are a must-see.