U.S. Capitol Christmas tree stopping at BSU on its way to DC

One of the country’s most famous Christmas trees will be packaged at Bemidji State University in preparation for its journey to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.


On Oct. 29, a tree will be cut from Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest and trucked to John Glas Fieldhouse on the Bemidji State campus. There, it will be packaged before departing for the Capitol on Nov. 3. It will take a team of six to eight people approximately 25 hours to prepare the tree for shipment.

The packaging stop at Bemidji State is one of many visits it will make in cities and towns as it journeys from the forest to Washington, D.C. Once the tree is installed, the lighting ceremony is broadcast live on C-SPAN.

History of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
The tradition of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree or “The People’s Tree” began in 1964, when House Speaker John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. This tree lived three years before succumbing to wind and root damage.

In 1970, the Capitol architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. Since then, a different National Forest has been chosen each year to provide “The People’s Tree.” The selected national forest also works with state forests to provide “companion trees,” or smaller Christmas trees, for offices in Washington, D.C.

This is the second time the Chippewa National Forest has provided the tree. In 1992, the forest and Leech Lake Reservation sent a 60-foot white spruce along with thousands of ornaments made by local school children. The tree also came from Minnesota in 1977 (Nemadji State Forest) and 1984 (Superior National Forest).

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and its companion trees will travel with close to 10,000 handmade ornaments. Children from ages 5-19 can submit ornaments and will be entered to win a trip to Washington, D.C. to light the tree with House Speaker John Boehner during the tree lighting ceremony in early December. After the ceremony, the tree will be lit nightly from dusk to 11 p.m. throughout the holiday season.

• Jeff Sande, physical plant manager, Bemidji State University; (218) 755-3988
• Mike Theune, U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree committee lead; (218) 335-8673, michaeljtheune@fs.fed.us

• Previous U.S. Capitol Christmas Trees