By Jacqueline G. Goodwin, Ed.D.
ANorthumberland County Tree Farm has provided the White House with its Christmas tree this year.
Larry Snyder, the owner of the Mahanotongo Valley Farm, is the grand champion winner of the National Christmas Tree Contest. He has the honor of providing the White House a grand tree for the holiday season. Snyder earned the honor of providing the tree by being named grand champion at a National Christmas Tree Association competition this summer. Last month, the tree was cut and transported to the White House.
Pennsylvania Agriculture Deputy Secretary Fred Strathmeyer, with help from the National Christmas Tree Association, picked the tree from the Mahantongo Valley Farm to be displayed in the Blue Room at the White House.
The White House Christmas tree, which serves as a centerpiece for Christmas decorations, must stand 18-19 feet tall and reach the ceiling of the Blue Room, where the chandelier is removed each holiday season to accommodate the tree. No need to worry that this year’s winner won’t fit the mark. Snyder’s tree is a Douglas fir, about 22-feet tall and has been growing for 16 years.
First Lady Lou Henry Hoover started the as yet unbroken custom of a Blue Room tree. In 1929, she oversaw the decoration of the first “official” tree. Since that time, the honor of trimming the principle White House Christmas tree has belonged to our first ladies.
It was First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy who established the tradition of displaying a thematically decorated Blue Room Christmas tree in 1961. That year the tree was decorated with objects depicting characters and toys from the “Nutracker Suite” ballet. The tradition was interrupted twice. In 1962, the tree was displayed in the Entrance Hall instead of the Blue Room because of renovation work. In 1969, First Lady Patricia Nixon chose the Entrance Hall again to make the tree more visible.
According to the Department Agriculture, there are more than 1,400 tree farms in Pennsylvania and the state ranks third in the nation for Christmas tree production. North Carolina and Pennsylvania have produced the most trees for the White House.
“Pennsylvania Christmas tree growers have a big impact on the state’s economy,” said Strathmeyer. “And now, a Pennsylvania tree is making its way to America’s living room.”
Pennsylvania has bragging rights in the Christmas tree industry, ranking third in the nation for Christmas tree production. Over 1,400 tree farms span over 31,000 acres in the state.