The People Behind "The People’s Tree"

John Boehner

These may be the dog days of summer, but somewhere along the Paul Bunyan Trail in Minnesota, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

The North Star State’s Chippewa National Forest will provide the 65-foot tree that will stand on the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol during the Christmas season.  The annual tree lighting, held in early December, is the product of much planning and hard work on the part of many across the country.  Let’s meet the people behind “The People’s Tree”:

The Architect of the Capitol

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree dates back half a century, to when House Speaker John W. McCormack asked for a live Christmas tree to be placed on the Capitol lawn.  After the tree fell victim to the elements, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) took the reins.  Since 1970, the architect has asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a tree from different national forests across America.  This is the second year the Chippewa National Forest has had the honor, the last time being 1992. 

The U.S. Forest Service 

The men and women of the Forest Service plan to select a 65-70 foot spruce or balsam fir.  In addition, they will pick several smaller trees that will be placed throughout the inside of the Capitol. 

The Transporters and Installers

Transporting the tree to the Capitol is a tradition in and of itself.  This year, the tree’s journey will begin October 29 with the official cutting, then make its first stop at Bemidji State University where the tree will be wrapped and receive its final preparations for the journey to Washington D.C.  Once the tree has made countless stops at schools, hospitals, state capitols, city halls, military bases, and more, AOC staff will secure the tree to the ground and the decorating will begin. 


The Forest Service is recruiting artists and volunteers from around the state to contribute the more than 10,000 handmade ornaments that will adorn the tree.  “We have already received commitments from groups around the state to participate, tallying up to 8,000 ornaments promised already,” said Ornament Chair Lynn Dee Stangel in a release.  Ornament contests are also sprouting up at county fairs across Minnesota.

The Tree Lighter

Once the tree is trimmed, members of the Capitol community and the public gather in the shadow of the Capitol Dome to light the lights.  Perhaps the most important guest will be the young Minnesotan who joins Speaker Boehner to flip the switch for all to see.  Here’s Johnny of Sonora, California, lighting the tree in 2011, and Giovanni, of Colville, Washington, doing the honors  in 2013.


You’re invited to attend the tree-lighting ceremony and visit the tree, which will be lit nightly from dusk until 11 p.m. throughout the holiday season.  For now, stay tuned to for updates.

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