Terrific Tree Tuesday: National Christmas Tree in Washington D.C.

Image published by Photoblog.NBCNews.com
Image published by Photoblog.NBCNews.com

This might be the most patriotic and historic of all the iconic trees we’ll cover. The National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. has a long and bright history–from the Christmas Eve in 1923 when Calvin Coolidge first lit a 28-foot balsam tree on the White House lawn.The National Christmas tree has always played a small part in the nation’s history. Every American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has made official remarks during the lighting ceremony, which is now located in President’s Park and attended by thousands of D.C. residents and visitors every year.

Smaller trees placed around the National Christmas Tree represent all 50 U.S. states, incorporated and unincorporated territories, and the District of Columbia. These are called the “Pathway of Peace,” part of the December “Pageant of Peace” that has been held every year since 1954 to celebrate the unity and freedom of American territories.

The symbolism behind the National Christmas Tree–and its subsidiary trees–doesn’t stop there. Since the 1970’s, real living trees planted in the White House lawn have served as the trees of choice every year; the tree represents a living whole, not just a seasonal decoration.

The 2012 National Tree, this year decorated and lit by General Electric, uses energy-efficient LED lights to recreate lighting schemes of the past, from the warm red and green lights to the shimmer of white that makes the tree sparkle.

According to the National Christmas Tree website, the purpose of the lighting ceremony and decorated tree reaches far beyond the ornaments and lights. It’s about the season and message of peace.