Evergreens climb to new heights of lighted spectacle in public sites great and small
This season's Christmas tree displays include trees made from feathers at a historic home in Indianapolis, a thank-you tree in Boston sent from Nova Scotia, and the Obamas' first National Christmas Tree ceremony in Washington.
The National Christmas Tree is scheduled to be lit on Thursday. Details of this year's ceremony have not been released yet, but traditionally the president and his family preside. Tickets already have been distributed by lottery to nearly 10,000 people, but the tree stays lit through Jan. 1 with free performances nightly. The tree is located less than a block from the White House.
Also in Washington, the Capitol Christmas Tree goes on display on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol near Constitution and Independence avenues. The tree comes from a different state every year, and this year an 85-foot blue spruce from Arizona's Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest becomes the first tree from that state to fill the role. The tree is scheduled to be lit Dec. 8 by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
In Indianapolis, the President Benjamin Harrison Home hosts a Victorian-themed Christmas, Nov. 20-Dec. 30. Decorations at the 1875 Italianate home will include a half-dozen feather trees, based on a German tradition popular in that era. The trees are made from white and dyed-green goose feathers wrapped around wires and shaped like small trees, according to curator Jennifer Capps.
The home also will have a replica of the tree the Harrisons had in the White House in 1889. "They were the first family to have a decorated Christmas tree in the White House," she said. The original decorations included wooden soldiers, and the Harrison home in Indianapolis has been inviting children who visit to create soldier decorations for the tree there for 40 years.
In Boston, Nova Scotia sends a Christmas tree every year as thanks for disaster aid from Massachusetts following the Halifax Explosion in 1917. This year's tree will be lit on the Boston Common Dec. 3.
The Rockefeller Center tree, a 76-foot Norway spruce, will be decorated with 30,000 lights and lit Dec. 2. You can see it any time until Jan. 7. The first Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was put up in 1931 by workers building the complex during the Depression, and the first official tree lighting there was in 1933.
Honolulu City Lights, which includes a tree, wreath displays and gingerbread houses, kicks off Friday and lasts a month. Opening night festivities typically draw 75,000 people. Later in the month, on Dec. 13, the 24,000 runners taking part in the Honolulu Marathon will run right past the Christmas display at Honolulu Hale, which is the name of the City Hall there.
In Riverside, Calif., The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa offers its annual Festival of Lights Nov. 27-Jan. 3, with 3.5 million lights, carriage rides and Santa visits. The elaborate lighting display has turned the inn into a must-see attraction for the holidays in Southern California. Tens of thousands of people attend the lighting ceremony each year and many more come through the grounds before the festival ends The lights depict toy soldiers, elves, swans, Santa and many other symbols of Christmas.
Arkansas showcases a trail of holiday lights around the state in six regions and dozens of communities, with details at http://www.arkansas.com But Arkansas' most famous lighting display is now in Florida, at Disney's Hollywood Studios. A lawsuit forced Jennings Osborne to stop putting up his massive home lighting display in Little Rock in 1994, but Disney brought the display to Disney World, where visitors can see it lit up every night except Nov. 22, through Jan. 4, from dusk to when the park closes.