U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree now lit and on display

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The nation’s capital is getting into the holiday spirit on Thursday.

With the flip of a switch, Washington wasn’t just it’s partisan colors of red and blue. Instead, the colors of the season.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) led the 55th annual tradition of lighting the Capitol Hill Christmas tree, but this year with late president George H.W. Bush, and a holiday theme, in mind.

“A few days after one of his granddaughters was born, President Bush wrote her a letter,” Ryan said. “(Bush) ends the letter by saying what counts is family and love.”

The tree is an 80-foot Oregon Noble Fir, decked out with thousands of decorations, lights, and ornaments handcrafted by the state’s residents.

“Nearly 20 percent of our state are national forests, and we love those forests,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)

“If we work together to sustain our nation’s forests, we can produce trees like this for generations to come,” said U.S Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen.

The tree will be lit from sundown through 11pm each night through New Year’s Day.

The tree arrived in Washington Nov. 26, trucked in on a more-than 3,000-mile cross-country tour from the Willamette National Forest. The tree followed a reverse path of the Oregon Trail, marking the 175th anniversary of the historic journey.

For Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the trail back East symbolizes a fundamental American right: the freedom of religion.

“Our diversity is a strength, it is one that Americans owe to the Framers of our wonderful Constitution,” Wyden said.

The Capitol Hill Christmas Tree is often known as “The People’s Tree,” shining a bright spot on Washington this holiday season.

The tree, which is usually selected from a U.S. National Forest, has never been harvested from the U.S. Virgin Islands.