A Beautiful Capitol Christmas Tradition

Holiday celebrations began in the State Capitol in1869. Though the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington DC is well-known, many may not be aware that a similar ceremony continues to take place each December in Sacramento at our State Capitol.

Past Governors decorated the Capitol with wreaths and their offices with trees, but in 1931 the tree was moved from the Governor’s office to the Rotunda and later to a spot near the Lt. Governor’s office, where it remained until 1984. Concerns about fire safety resulted in the tree being moved outside, where it has remained ever since. Despite a brief hiatus as a `Holiday Tree’ under former Governor Gray Davis, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who succeeded Davis, decided the tree was indeed a `Christmas Tree,’ and so it remains.

On December 1st, Governor Gavin Newsom and Jennifer Siebel Newsom hosted the Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the State Capitol’s West Steps. This year’s tree is a 65-foot white fir donated by the U.S. Forest Service from Camino California, which is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in El Dorado County.

The ceremony also honored eight-year-old Layla Datskyy. Layla was selected by the California Department of Developmental Services and the Alta California Regional Center to represent almost 400,000 Californians living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Layla, who helped light the tree, is a third grader at O.W. Erlewine Elementary School in Sacramento.

The tree is illuminated by 14,000 LED lights and is decorated with about 250 traditional ornaments along with 250 handmade ornaments made by adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Ceremonies included performances by singer/songwriter/dancer Tinashe, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, UC Davis acapella groups, and many more.

And so, our Capitol Christmas Tree remains a beacon of peace, unity and joy in tumultuous times.