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AMERICA’S TREE

Out of the 30 million trees sold during Christmas, this one shines brighter than the rest for one night.

The backstory on the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the White House.

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HOW IT CAME TO BE:

  • Many presidents and their families had Christmas trees INSIDE the White House.
  • On Christmas Eve 1923, Pres. Coolidge became the first to light a tree on the outside lawn, starting an annual tradition. Middlebury College in VT, his home state, donated a balsam fir.
  • 2,500 electric bulbs lit the 48-ft tree in front of a crowd of 3,000.
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  • Host: National Park Service & its non-profit National Park Foundation
  • Tree: From 1924 – 1953 live trees were used, then cut trees were used until 1973. Live trees have been used ever since.
  • Decorations: Family company, Hargrove Inc., has decorated the tree since 1954; Earl Hargrove would fix light bulbs, climbing the tree dressed as Santa.
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“I’m very proud of all of this. I’ve been proud since year one …. It’s the thing that we always brag about.”

Hargrove Inc. founder Earl Hargrove, Jr. to the Washington Post in 2006. Hargrove opened his event planning company with his father in 1946. Hargrove was known as "the President's prop man" and the company continues to serve as an event supplier for inaugurations and D.C. events
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On Nov. 28, the White House will hold its annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at dark in President’s Park. 56 schools have designed ornaments for the 56 trees that surround the National Tree, representing 56 U.S. states, territories, and D.C.

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