Christmas in Washington DC is color magnified—white sparkling lights at The Monument grounds, a forest-green Capitol Christmas tree, blue bows bedecking kiosks at Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter, yolk-yellow street lamps aglow in Georgetown and red Seneca sandstone buildings at the Smithsonian museum complex.
I know that magic is in the air by early December—not because the malls and store fronts suddenly transform into holiday emporiums—but the appearance of the towering Christmas trees decorated with LED lights and ornaments located throughout the city. The most famous, of course, is the National Christmas Tree in President’s Park on the White House Ellipse.
But I gravitate to a display closer to home.
I have just attended an evening Smithsonian Associates class about Fellini’s Italy on December 4. Afterwards there is a reception. I nibble on foods which have made Emilia Romagna, Italy famous. These include olives, salumi, Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic vinegar, prosciutto and the Italian Panettone Christmas bread.
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Christmas in Washington
As I step outside the S. Dillon Ripley Center to walk down the Mall, I am transfixed. The view is always spectacular—the U.S. Capitol looms large at night as its white marble facade gleams in the moonlight.
But tonight I am surprised to see the harbinger of the season welcomes me—the official U.S. Capitol Christmas tree.
Capitol Christmas Tree
Like a magnet, the glimmering white 60-foot tall tree pulls me toward the Capitol Grounds which is a brisk 20-minute walk. I pull my wool scarf over my face and push into the wind. My walk will take me past the Hirshhorn Museum, the National Gallery of Art and the Native American Museum.
Since 1970, the U.S. Park Service procures the Christmas tree from different national parks for Christmas in Washington. Over the last decade, the species of the tree includes Nobel Fir, Engelmann Spruce, Sierra White Fir and Lutz Spruce (the first tree from Alaska).
The 2019 blue spruce tree is 68 years old and comes from the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. But back in the ‘60s, the Capitol Christmas tree was a live Douglas Fir purchased from a Pennsylvania nursery. From 1963 to 1967, it was redecorated each year until it died from root damage incurred from a wind storm.
From a distance, the Capitol Christmas Tree sparkles like diamonds—a shimmering white illumination on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Grounds. But as I move closer down the Mall, I see the tree is aglow with red, green, blue, yellow and orange lights. Christmas in Washington is multi-colored.
Symbol of American People
I stand there transfixed by the solemn beauty of the tree standing in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol—which is “a symbol of the American people and their government, the meeting place of the nation’s legislature” (www.VisitTheCapitol.org).
For the entire month of December, people from Washington, DC as well as from states as far-flung as Wyoming and countries throughout the world will make the pilgrimage to celebrate Christmas in this capital city. And no place is as moving as the quiet grandeur of the U.S. Capitol grounds decorated for the season.
As you prepare for the holidays, try to slow down and savor the “moments”—a velvet black night transformed by shimmering lights or the toll of church bells. Breath the frosty air. Enjoy your cat hiding under the Christmas tree with a jumble of bows and ribbons.
- “Love came down at Christmas,
- Love all lovely, Love Divine,
- Love was born at Christmas,
- Star and Angels gave the sign.”
Next week don’t miss my blog on the 2019 Georgetown GLOW DC. This holiday “Light Art Show” features illuminations from artists from around the world.
P.S. Comments (or emails) are welcome!
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