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Weekly Column: The Greatest Gifts

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

According to U.S. House of Representatives historians, on December 24, 1913, “thousands flocked to the U.S. Capitol to celebrate Washington’s first ‘community Christmas.’  The centerpiece of the festivities, a 40-foot Norway spruce Christmas tree located on the East Front plaza of the U.S. Capitol, was adorned with red, white, and blue electric bulbs.  The celebration boasted a lighted placard with the inscription, ‘Peace on earth, good will to men,’ nativity scenes, and a large chorus which sang Christmas hymns.  During the Christmas Eve celebration, the Marine Band played the national anthem, and in keeping with the spirit of community cooperation, Boy Scout troops assisted the Capitol Police with crowd control.” 

Over the years since, the location of the Capitol Christmas Tree and other details have changed.  The Architect of the Capitol reports, “it was not until 1964 that a definite procedure was initiated and a tree-lighting ceremony established.”  As the House historians explain further, “Since 1970—after two unsuccessful attempts to plant trees on the West Front lawn—the U.S. Forest Service and the Architect’s office have selected the Capitol Christmas Tree cut from various national forests in the United States.  As time passed, an annual ceremony has emerged in which the Speaker of the House lights the Capitol Tree.”

This year’s Capitol Christmas Tree is a 63-foot Norway Spruce from the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.  But, two Capitol Christmas Trees have come from Idaho.  In 2003, a 65-foot Engelmann Spruce was selected from the Boise National Forest.  Then, in 2016, I was proud to attend the lighting ceremony of an 80-foot Engelmann Spruce that was selected from the Payette National Forest.  We had the opportunity to welcome and thank special Idahoans representing the many who helped get the tree to our Capitol, helped decorate it and helped in celebrating the very special occasion.  Idaho’s trees, gifts from our great State, represented a small portion of the natural beauty that we are fortunate to have in Idaho and were symbolic of Idahoans’ kindness. 

During this season of giving, I am reminded of one of the greatest gifts I receive throughout the year: the kindness of Idahoans.  At various times, Idahoans send words of encouragement.  I am grateful for your kind words.  Being from Idaho is a source of pride.  Idahoans are giving, thoughtful and gracious.  Throughout the daily interactions I have with fellow Idahoans, I am continuously reminded of the goodwill of Idahoans.  You give so much of your time and talents to helping others and sow seeds of great light through your actions. 

I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and may God bless you and your family.

The 2016 Capitol Christmas Tree from Idaho’s Payette National Forest

(The 2016 Capitol Christmas Tree from Idaho’s Payette National Forest)

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Word Count: 441