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christmas-display-us-botanic-garden-011345-dc-photographerOne of the many highlights of Christmas in Washington, DC is a trip to the United States Botanic Garden to see the annual Christmas display.   This includes poinsettias of red, white, pink, multicolor pink and white, white and red or speckled.  And one of the newest color of poinsettia is orange.    Get into the holiday spirit at the U.S. Botanic Garden’s annual holiday exhibit, Season’s Greenings. The Conservatory will be adorned with wreaths, garlands, living ornaments and filled with model trains, buildings made from plant materials and a vast collection of poinsettias to celebrate the wonder of the winter holiday season.   These buildings represent different museums and places of historic significance.   The famous Garden Railway in the East Gallery will feature model trains running through an imaginative Enchanted Forest, with fanciful fairy dwellings along the rail line, all created with plant materials. Enjoy blooming plants throughout the Conservatory and a living history of poinsettias. The West Gallery will house one of the largest indoor decorated trees in Washington, D.C., and the Garden Court is home to a display of model landmark buildings from our Nation’s capital, all made from plant materials.  There is different music or artistic groups that shall give holiday musical performances at the Botanic Gardens.    And nearby is the Capitol tree at the United States Capitol.   The 2012 Tree came from the state of Colorado and is decorated with ornaments made by people of the state of Colorado.      Each year the tree that adorns the capitol grounds comes from a different US State, and the decorations come from people that live in that state.   It always is impressive.  This year I had the opportunity to watch the tree being decorated by members of the US Forest Service and the National Park Service.   Such a fascinating sight to watch to be able to see how the tree actually gets decorated (not all that different from how we do it).   It looks interesting lit up as well, not to be missed.

Not far from the Capitol Building is Union Station, where every year the train station is decorated outside with gigantic holiday wreaths.  Each year the Norwegian Embassy sponsors a holiday celebration and a Christmas tree lighting there. Enjoy a holiday model train, Christmas tree lighting ceremony, a Norwegian bazaar and holiday performances.  Union Station itself is festively decorated for the holiday and is worth a visit.

On the Ellipse near the White House, there is the National Christmas tree.   Since 1923, the United States has held a tradition of lighting a National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC. In 1978, a live 40-foot Colorado blue spruce was transplanted from York, Pennsylvania to its present site on the Ellipse, the grassy area south of the White House. In 1954, a “Pathway of Peace,” 56 smaller, decorated trees representing all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia were planted surrounding the National Christmas Tree.    Each year sponsoring organizations from each state provide tree decorations that are encased in protective plastic globes to shield it from the weather. The lighting of the National Christmas Tree is the beginning of a three week Washington, DC Christmas tradition.  Around the perimeter of the tree is a working model train display that fascinates both young and old.  There is also a Yule Log burning, Santa’s Reindeer as well as Santa’s workshop.  As well as a Nativity scene, to help remind what Christmas is all about.


Each year the White House is exquisitely turned out for the holidays, with beautifully decorated trees and ornaments. Every year the theme is different.  The 2012 decorations year paidarticle-1232765-0770CAA8000005DC-786_964x626 tribute to our Armed Forces and their families. The walls of the East Landing are adorned with wreaths crafted with red, white, and blue yarn, and a Christmas tree decorated with festive, patriotic ornaments completes the space. The official White House Christmas tree, which stands tall in the center of the Blue Room, honors the courageous service of the troops, veterans, and military families who serve our country with pride. The 18-foot-6- inch Fraser Fir from Jefferson, North Carolina is trimmed with ornaments decorated by military children living on U.S. Military Bases all over the world, and these one-of-a-kind ornaments honor their parents’ commitment to service.

The custom of selecting an official holiday theme began in the 1960s, when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created a Nutcracker-themed Christmas for her daughter, Caroline. This year we honor that tradition and pay tribute to past White House holidays with four trees in the Grand Foyer. Each tree is trimmed with a collection of iconic ornaments that best represent the holiday legacies of former First Ladies dating back more than 50 years to Mrs. Kennedy. In total, there are 54 trees throughout the White House that have been decorated to reflect this year’s holiday theme.   Also every year as the visitor passes thru the state dining room, they see the Gingerbread house created by the White House Pastry chef and staff.   The first family’s pet is always featured somewhere in the Gingerbread house display.   Sometimes there are special evening candlelit tours of the White House, and also musical interludes along the way.

concert-hallMany other places are decorated with special holiday decorations as well such as The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Hillwood Museum (the home of Marjorie Meriwether Post), Dumbarton Oaks, museums amongst others.    There are areas where neighborhoods sponsor a contest for the best decorated (outside) home, it is enjoyable to either walk or drive thru the neighborhoods after dark to view the lights and decorations.   It’s also a good way to get into the holiday spirit.   There are also many musical and theatrical performances for every taste (and budget) and can range from a local band or choral group to the well-known (such as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra).  Productions also include The Nutcracker Ballet, A Christmas Carol.   Every year the US Marine Corps, in conjunction with the National Symphony Orchestra has a candlelit sing-along at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts.  It is awesome sight to look down the hill side and see all the glistening candles and hear the wonderful music.  This event is free, but the Marine Corps appreciates a new or gently used toy for a needy child.

Also if you enjoy ice-skating, The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink is open from mid-November through mid-March, weather permitting. View magnificent works of sculpture while skating in the open air and enjoying music from the state-of-the-art sound system.  There will even be a live DJ on Thursday evenings at the ice rink thru late February.

Kathy Kiefer


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