Tuesday, November 18, 2008

O CHRISTMAS TREE (it's on the way!)


My friend Juanita, who lives in Montana, called me a while ago to tell me about an amazing thing her husband had just participated in. She is married to Stephen Small Salmon, who is an elder of the Pend Oreille First Nation. He was contacted to give ceremonial assistance in the cutting of this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree for Washington, D.C. I didn’t know much about the process, but apparently every year, a different National Forest and the State where it’s located (also one with suitably large trees, I presume) is given the joyful task of providing a tree to be sent to the Capitol to be “The People’s Tree.” This year it was a subalpine fir fromthe Bitterroot National Forest in western Montana doing the honors. After the selection was made, there was quite a ceremony surrounding the cutting. Stephen offered a prayer for the tree, and sang an honor song, then the sawyers stepped up. The tree was cut and loaded on a flatbed truck, and began its journey to the Capitol, making scheduled stops along the way. Here’s a LINK to the Montana tree website. On the home page you can find all the info on this year's tree, trees past, the history of the program, and a menu of jump links. Click on Photo Gallery and you’ll see a picture of Stephen praying at the tree, and photos of the group of several hundred people who turned out for the party. You can also see the route that the tree is taking – maybe it’s coming to a city or town near you – and there’s also a link further down the page that takes you to a live cam.

Stephen told Juanita it was “a healing tree” – certainly a good thing for this particular holiday, after such a long and contentious election process. Juanita said when she put her hand on the magnificent tree it felt that way to her, too. If you think this sounds a little woo-woo, go find yourself a large ‘grandfather’ tree and spend a quiet moment with it, and put your hands on it. Imagine what those grand old trees have seen!

In the interest of equal time, I decided to check out the Canadian Christmas Tree. I Googled every possible way I could think of, and didn’t find much of anything. I know there's a large tree that gets lit for the holidays in Ottawa, at Parliament Hill, and also one in Toronto (the unofficial Capitol). Then I called our fellow blogger Kat, who is always on top of everything, and she sent me a short article from the National Post. Apparently the Toronto tree (a white spruce this year) had already arrived (back on Nov. 1st!) at Nathan Phillips Square. But there doesn’t seem to be the sense of pomp and ceremony surrounding either of them - at least not until they are in place and lit. Toronto’s (and unofficially Canada's ) Christmas Tree and will be part of the 42nd Cavalcade of Lights, but there was no date given. I have to admit, it was a little disappointing, having just come from the big Montana Christmas Tree website with all the bells and whistles, and I kind of feel like a grinch even saying so. Of course, once any Christmas tree is lit, no matter where or how big or small, the spirit is the same everywhere. That’s what it’s all about!


Photo of subalpine fir from Wikimedia Commons

19 comments:

Quiet Paths said...

How cool is that? What a honor for Steven and Juanita.

bobbie said...

I'm going to be the Grinch here. I am aware of the traditions involved in these ceremonies of the tree, and I have enjoyed as much as anyone the lighting of the huge tree in Rockefeller Center in NYC, and the one in Washington, DC. Still, in view of so much destruction of forests of the world, and especially as I contemplate the cutting down of a 700 year old tree to go to NY this year, and remembering the acres and acres of trees burned in wild fires also this year, how can they even think of doing this?

I cannot believe that they cut down such an ancient creature. Sorry, but I just can't rejoice in this.

YourFireAnt said...

I'm with Bobbie. Even the benighted university where I work, about 20 years ago, planted a tree that gets lit up each December, and then the lights turned off again sometime in January.

Why our nation's capital can't do that is beyond me.

FA

Squirrel said...

It is quite an honor! Sometimes the rockefeller center trees in NYC are chosen from our county. We've been growing one in hopes... but I doubt it will ever be big enough--even tho it is now really too too big for the yard.

This year (because of the election) I'm in the mood for Christmas in a BIG way! Luckily Nyack has a huge year round Christmas shop filled with handmade & unusual ornaments. I'll have to post about the place after black Friday sometime.

This is the first year in 8 yrs. that I've been excited about a holiday and parties etc...baking... not a chore this year!!! A Joy!

Squirrel said...

I'm happy for Juanita and Stephen--send them my warm regards and Merry Christmas--they're making a lot of little kids in DC happy --my kids always LOVED going to look at the NYC tree (and the indoor trees at the met and Main library) -- I'm going off to the photo gallery now---thanks.

Quiet Paths said...

You do have a point and I feel quite badly for the tree, plus the expense & fossil fuel to get it to the east coast. However, 'some' tree is going to get cut somewhere, until a new tradition is begun. It would be nice if we didn't cut ancient live trees to mark our human celebrations. It's quite an old tradition, actually. Maybe we can all write letters to start a new trend?

I happen to have met both these people and their respect for all living things is quite obvious. It's nice they were recognized.

Deborah Godin said...

MORE ABOUT THE TREE

I can't say for sure about the U.S. tree, but the article in the Canadian paper said the city of Toronto took "great pains to point out that the 68-year-old white spruce was 'near the end of its natural life cycle'" I would hope and expect the U.S. would be as careful!

bobbie said...

Sorry, I hit an extra 0. Meant 70 year old tree,

bobbie said...

Yes, fireant has the right idea. When we lived in NY, each year we bought a live tree, and planted them along our drive after each Christmas. It would be so much better if these people invested in a large, live tree which could be decorated each year, and enjoyed all year long.
I do appreciate that the one in question was on its way toward the end of its life, but that is rarely the case.

me ann my camera said...

I especially like the healing aspect of the tree and it is a generous gift of giving.

To help you out with similar Canadian stories of giving Christmas trees, this link included is of a wonderful response from the people of Nova Scotia to those of Boston who responded with immediate aid after the Halifax explosion of 1917.

http://www.canada.com/topics/news/story.html?id=a72b64ab-60d1-49c4-b4a5-d47d82f3934a

Deborah Godin said...

ANN
I appreciate the link for that. I've seen the historical vignette on TV about that horrific explosion; it was the kind of event that leaves indelible scars on a region's psyche, and the story of such a deep and long-standing connection across the border is heartwarming indeed.

gardenpath said...

I didn't know this. Interesting. I just read on Nancy's site

http://nancybond.wordpress.com/2008/11/18/o-christmas-tree/

about the tree Nova Scotia gives to Boston every year. Didn't know that either.

magiceye said...

wow that was so interesting

hitch writer said...

seems you cant wait for Christmas Eh!!

Giannina Warren said...

Thanks for the story about Montana. Perhaps it's something I can suggest to my team here at the City of Toronto as well. In the meantime, we do celebrate the lighting of the tree with a huge celebration spanning 42 years - the annual Cavalcade of Lights Ceremony on November 29. You can find more information about this amazing event at www.toronto.ca/special_events. Thanks for sharing!

Wayfaring Wanderer said...

Interesting story, I think NC did that one year?!?! We are like the fraser fir captiol!

Dee said...

I am also a little dismayed at the idea of a tree giving us joy for a season and then being discarded- I do hope they chose one that was at the end of its life cycle. I love the smell of a real Christmas tree- but I hate seeing them in the trash after the holiday.

Squirrel said...

I have a bit of land and have always wanted to start a Christmas Tree farm on it, that way kids could enjoy their decorated Christmas trees indoors for many weeks without guilt. In the past we have planted many potted trees, but sometimes it's too cold. It would be hard for elderly relatives to get potted trees or enjoy the plasticky ones from China. I hope the Christmas Tree tradition never dies. I visit kids at foundling hospitals and homes (aka orphanages) and the tree is something they LOVE to sit under, smell, touch, decorate, stare at. They get so much joy out of it, esp, the children with serious illnesses that cannot go outside, much less sit next to a pine tree.

Squirrel said...

many people buy bags of pine bark mulch--where do they suppose it comes from?

our local trees get mulched by our recycling group (trees are put out on the curb like piles of leaves in the fall--!!) the town comes along and collects them for compost. the compost becomes topsoil eventually for our kitchen gardens in the spring. I have a lot of blueberry bushes and they loved to be mulched with pine needles.