For many years I have watched the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on television in early December. I had no idea what went into this event. I just knew that a tree was chosen from one of our national forests, taken to Washington D.C., decorated, and lit in this huge ceremony shown on national TV.
I thought things like, "Why do they cut down a perfectly good tree every year to do this?" I sometimes wondered how they picked out what tree they would use. And I always enjoyed the lighting which told me that now it really was Christmas time.
I never would have had an inkling of the major efforts that go into this, except for this year it has been brought home to my family in a pretty personal manner. My family has a history of working on the Stanislaus National Forest in various capacities over the last 30 years. My sister, my niece, my mother, and my nephew all have been employed by the Forest Service over the years. The ladies have all worked in offices and ranger stations in and around Sonora, California. And my nephew worked many years as a Hot Shot, a fire fighter for the forest.
Well, this year the Stanislaus National Forest was chosen as the forest that would supply the People's Tree. This decision is made very early in the year and now I know why.
It is not as I thought vaguely over the years. A committee visits the forest, picks a tree, it gets cut down and hauled to the capitol, and there you have it. Far from it... a full year is needed to do all that goes into this tradition.
My niece was chosen as one of the people to spearhead the mission and has been busy with nothing else this year. The details are too many for me to tell, but I have included a link that tells the story here: http://www.capitolchristmastree2011.org/index.html
Today is the day that the tree reached Washington and the lighting will be on December 6th. The tree arriving at the Capitol is the culmination of a 20 day trek across the US. My niece has been traveling with the tree on its journey with many stops in many states on the way.
One of the stops was in Gallup, New Mexico, one of the poorest communities in our nation and I am proud to say that my niece added a special touch to this year's journey by setting up a plan to "Pay it Forward." While the tree traveled around California at the start of the trip, non-perishable food items were collected from the people of California and presented to the people of Gallup, New Mexico when the tree stopped there.
And if all of this was not enough, one of the truck drivers chosen to take the tree from California to Washington turned out to be my brother-in-law. He is driving the truck carrying all of the ornaments, extra trees for other buildings in the Capitol, and a tree to be donated to the Smithsonian.
Happy Holidays all...
The US National Christmas Tree
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