1974-1976 National Christmas Trees

1974 | 1975 | 1976

 
1974 National Christmas Tree (Photo by Aldon Nielson)
1974 National Christmas Tree (Photo by Aldon Nielsen)

1974
December 17
Ford

President and Participants: President Ford lit the National Christmas Tree at 5:55 p.m. and delivered Christmas greetings. President Ford said that, as a former National Park Service ranger of years ago, he had long been concerned with conservation. He expressed pleasure at the present of a living tree. As a President concerned with saving energy, he continued, he was pleased with the considerable reduction in the amount of energy consumed by the recent tree lightings. [Public Papers of the Presidents, December 17, 1974.]

Secretary of the Interior Rogers Morton; Washington, D.C. Mayor Walter Washington, and Edwin K. Hoffman, vice-chairman of the 1974 Christmas Pageant of Peace honorary committee, all sat on the stage.

The Tree: Living, 42-foot Colorado blue spruce from Pennsylvania (1973). A plaque commemorating the "first living tree" was placed at the site of the tree by John W. Dixon, president of Christmas Pageant of Peace, Inc. [NPS-WHL, Box AM-027, "K14 Information Request," Christmas Tree (1974-1986), File 3," memo, August 6, 1974.]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: Public outcry followed the cancellation of the nativity scene.

The Christian Service Corps, a private organization, presented a live dramatization of the nativity on the Washington Monument grounds. [Evening Star, December 18, 1975; NPS-WHL, Box SE-001, "A82 Pageant of Peace 1974," letters, December 5, 1974, November 20, 1974.]

The U.S. Marine Band performed. [Washington Post, December 17, 1974.]

Pageant elements included a reindeer pen, an arts and crafts area, and a Yule log fire pit.

Tree Topping: A press release announced the first official tree-topping event on December 3. The topping was done by Earl C. Hargrove, Jr., a member of the decorating team, dressed as Santa. The tradition of a member of the President's or Vice President's family topping the tree did not occur until Amy Carter topped the tree in 1978. [NPS-WESF, RG-79, Box 31, "A8227 Pageant of Peace - SE-72-72," "GE Lighting Schedule," November 25, 1974.]

Miscellaneous: The Commission of Fine Arts voiced concerns about the aesthetics of the Pageant structures on the Ellipse and damage to the grounds. [NPS-WHL, Box SE-001, "Pageant of Peace -1975," letters, September 9, 1974, December 17, 1974.]

 
 
1975 National Christmas Tree (Photo by Aldon Nielson)
1975 National Christmas Tree (Photo by Aldon Nielsen)

1975
December 18
Ford

President and Participants: President Ford lit the National Christmas Tree at 5:50 p.m. He said, "As we enter American's third century, let us make sure we carry with us out our abiding faith in the ultimate triumph of peace on earth and the living example of good will to all men and women." [Public Papers of the Presidents, December 18, 1975.] John Dixon, president of the Christmas Pageant of Peace, Inc., and Ambassador Guilermo Sevilla-Sacasa of Nicaragua, dean of the Washington Diplomatic Corps, attended the event. [Public Papers of the Presidents, December 18, 1975.]

The Tree: Living, 42-foot Colorado blue spruce from Pennsylvania (1973). The tree was decorated in red, white and blue in celebration of the American Bicentennial and topped with a Liberty Bell ornament. [Evening Star, December 2, 1975; NPS-WHL, Box SE-001, "A82 Pageant of Peace 1975," GE Lighting Fact Sheet.] Thirteen smaller trees, symbolizing the thirteen colonies, encircled the large tree. [NPS-WHL, Box SE-001, "A82 Pageant of Peace 1975," GE Lighting Fact Sheet.]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: The second annual live dramatization of the nativity scene was held on the grounds of the Washington Monument. [Evening Star, December 18, 1975.] The Commission of Fine Arts and National Park Service discussed concerns about scarring and damage to the Ellipse. It was suggested that the Pageant incorporate lighter structures that would leave less of a mark on the Ellipse. [NPS-WHL, Box SE-001, "A82 Pageant of Peace 1975," memo, January 4, 1975; NPS-WHL, Box SE-001, "A82 Pageant of Peace 1975," letters January 20, 1975, February 7, 1975.]

The National Park Service considered suggestions to move the stage eastward in order to avoid intrusion onto the White House-Jefferson Memorial vista. This would also decrease the driveway, create an easier entrance and exit route for the President, and provided more seating room. [NPS-WHL, Box SE-001, "A82 Pageant of Peace 1975," "Pageant of Peace Considerations," December 18, 1975.]

Theme: "The Bicentennial". The Pageant, with participation from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia featured music and stage shows depicting colonial activities such as the "Grand Illumination." The ceremony included fife and drum music and costumed players. [NPS-WHL, Box SE-001, "A82 Pageant of Peace 1975"]

Tree Topping: The tradition of a tree-topping ceremony continued when Manus (Jack) Fish, regional director of the National Capital Region, topped the tree on December 1. [White House, Office of the Curator, Pageant of Peace Files, NPS Press Release, revised December 14, 1992.] Performers/Celebrity Involvement: Willard Scott [NPS-WHL, Box SE-001, "A82 Pageant of Peace 1977/78," minutes, November 2, 1976.]

 
 
1976 National Christmas Tree (Photo by Aldon Nielson)
1976 National Christmas Tree (Photo by Aldon Nielsen)

1976
December 16
Ford

President and Participants: President Ford lit the National Christmas Tree and delivered a Christmas greeting. The President spoke about true peace as "more than absence of battle. It is also the absence of prejudice and the triumph of understanding." [White House, Office of the Curator, National Christmas Tree, "Remarks of the President at the Lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree".]

The Tree: Living, 45-foot Colorado blue spruce from Pennsylvania (1973). Having deteriorated since its planting in 1973, the National Christmas Tree was blemished and splotchy and required supplementation with additional branches. [Washington Post, December, 1976.] A team began looking for a new tree.

The tree was decorated with a red color scheme. [NPS-WHL, Box SE-001, "A82 Pageant of Peace 1977/78," minutes of meeting of Board of Directors, November 2, 1976.]

Noteworthy Ceremony Elements: Pageant elements included a reindeer pen and a Yule Log pit.

Theme: "Youth in America -- As We Enter the Tricentennial" (or "Youth")

Performers: Noted boxer Sugar Ray Leonard signed autographs. [NPS-WPP, "Christmas Pageant of Peace Binders," unidentified and undated newspaper article, ca. December 1976.]

Tree Topping: Paul Demasky of Hargrove Displays topped the tree on November 30. [NPS-WHL, Box SE-001, "A82 Pageant of Peace 1977/78," minutes of meeting of Board of Directors, November 2, 1976.]

Miscellaneous: The National Organization of Women requested that the entry banner to the Christmas Pageant of Peace read "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All" instead of "Peace on Earth to Men of Goodwill." [NPS-WHL, Box SE-001,"A82 Pageant of Peace 1977/78," letter from Dixon to Fish, January 3, 1977.]

 

Last updated: January 5, 2016

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