Published: 17-03-2010, 16:34

Nation’s Christmas Tree

King’s Canyon National Park, located in east central California, is home to some of the largest trees in the world. These enormous redwood trees, called giant sequoias, or Sequoiadendron giganteum, can live for over 3,000 years. One of these behemoths, named the General Grant tree, serves as the Nation’s Christmas Tree.
The General Grant tree is only the third largest sequoia in the park. Nevertheless, its dimensions impress. The tree reaches over 267 feet in height. It measures 40 feet in diameter and 107 feet in circumference around the base. The first branch extending off the trunk does so at about 100 feet from the ground. A sturdy young adult, the tree is estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000 years old.
President Calvin Coolidge declared the General Grant tree to be the Nation’s Christmas Tree in 1926. He did so at the request of Charles E. Lee of Sanger, California. Mr. Lee visited King’s Canyon in 1924, and as he gazed up at the General Grant tree, he overheard a little girl next to him say that it would make a marvelous CHRISTMAS TREE.
Inspired by this chance remark, he led a DECEMBER 25 Christmas program at the foot of the tree in 1925. He also wrote to the President, requesting that the chief executive officially designate the General Grant as the Nation’s Christmas Tree. Coolidge did so on April 28,1926. President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the tree as a national shrine in 1956, dedicating it to those who died while serving their country.
The yearly Christmas ceremony at the foot of the tree has continued since 1925. The event has been nicknamed the “trek to the tree.” It attracted 450 celebrants in 2001. In addition to visitors from across the nation and around the world, many residents of nearby Sanger, California, make the yearly pilgrimage, led by members of the town’s chamber of commerce. Park rangers traditionally place a large Christmas WREATH at the base of the tree. The “trek” takes place on the second Sunday in December.
Alternative ceremonies take place all the way across the country in Washington, D.C. There a rival tree, located on the Ellipse (or President’s Park South), serves as the NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE.