Washington holiday season begins with arrival of White House Christmas tree
The Washington holiday season had a festive start Friday when First Lady Michelle Obama presided over the arrival of the White House Christmas tree – a balsam fir from Wisconsin.
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The growers of this year’s official tree won the honor in a Christmas tree contest held in August by the National Christmas Tree Association (NCTA).Skip to next paragraph
This is the seventh time a Wisconsin grower has provided the White House tree, according to NCTA records which go back to 1966. North Carolina growers hold the record for providing the official White House tree, having done so 11 times. Wisconsin and Washington State are tied for second place with 7 wins each. This year is the first since 1998 when a balsam fir was the winning species.
While the Blue Room tree is the most highly decorated and has a place of honor, it is usually just one of many trees placed around the White House. Last year there were 19 trees in all.
White House holiday receptions include events for members of Congress and the administration, diplomats, and members of the media.
The early history of the White House Christmas tree is in dispute. The Christmas Tree Association website says that New Hampshire native Franklin Pierce brought the first Christmas tree to the executive mansion in 1853. The White House Historical Association gives that distinction to President Benjamin Harrison in 1889.
The practice of having an “official” Christmas tree decorated under the auspices of the First Lady began with Lou Henry Hoover in 1929. In 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of having a theme surrounding the decorations. Mrs. Kennedy’s first theme was “Nutcracker Suite” based on Tchaikovsky’s ballet.
While the White House tree presentation has a festive air, some portions of the Christmas tree industry are suffering.
The Associated Press reports that Christmas tree growers in Texas and Oklahoma have been hard hit by drought which has killed thousands of trees. To meet local demand, some growers are importing trees from North Carolina. Growers from Texas and Oklahoma have not supplied a White House Christmas tree since records began in 1966.