The 2022 Capitol Christmas Tree, a red spruce from the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina, is illuminated on Tuesday night after a lighting ceremony on the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree was lit on the West Front Lawn Tuesday night during a holiday ceremony led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and lawmakers from North Carolina, where the tree was grown.
"Ruby," the 78-foot-tall red spruce, arrived at the Capitol nearly two weeks ago from Pisgah National Forest and was fully decorated as it was lit by 9-year-old Coche Tiger, a citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians whose prize-winning essay in his native language served as inspiration for this year's holiday theme -- "From the Mountains to the Sea."
"This glorious tree is wonderfully decorated ... It calls to mind a timeless patriotic tune: 'God Bless America. From the mountains, to the prairies. To the oceans white with foam. God bless America. My home sweet home,'" Pelosi said, quoting the song's lyrics.
"Indeed, the People's Tree embodies these lyrics -- a symbol of our nation's strengths of beauty, diversity and unity. So this holiday season, as we behold this magnificent tree -- it is magnificent, and its shining lights to come on now -- let us summon our deep, patriotic spirit and join together as one."
The behemoth spruce was decked out with thousands of LED bulbs and decorated with hand-crafted ornaments from people across North Carolina.
A glowing star beamed from the top.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper spoke briefly at the ceremony along with Republican Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, North Carolina Congressmen Patrick McHenry and David Price.
Each tried to sum up what the tree lighting symbolized for the nation.
"We are honoring the spirit of the season, the good will, the diversity, the inclusion, these are the values we hold dear," Price said.
The architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton also gave words, as well as Randy Moore, chief of the U.S. Forest Service.
The ceremony also featured performances by a military band and the Washington Performing Arts Children of the Gospel.
The tradition of erecting a Christmas tree at the Capitol goes back as far as 1919. But it did not become a regular occurrence until 1964, when a Douglas fir was purchased in Birdsboro, Pa., and planted on the lawn.
In her speech, Pelosi paid homage to former House Speaker John W. McCormack, who sought to inspire hope when he formalized the Capitol tradition one year after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
"Speaker McCormack had an idea to place here a national beacon of hope, comfort and joy," Pelosi said. "And ever since, in times of war and peace, hardship and prosperity, the spectacular Capitol Christmas Tree has brought the American people together."
Part of the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree program involves a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the National Forest Foundation to raise funds for a nursery that will grow seedlings for reforestation. The nursery will eventually grow seedlings from "Ruby."
Earlier this week, First lady Jill Biden unveiled holiday decorations at the White House based around the theme "We the People."