Christmas has come. At least at the U.S. Capitol, where its official Christmas tree arrived Friday.
The path the massive tree has taken to become a symbol of Christmas for the nation is from deep within western North Carolina in the Pisgah National Forest. The red spruce is 78 feet tall.
The type of tree is only found in the highest elevations of the southern Appalachian forest, and must undergo a rigorous selection process before becoming the "People's Tree." Shape and fullness are evaluated from all angles with experts ensuring its foliage are rich and just right for the species.
After the tree is selected, it's destined for a larger audience to bring holiday cheer.
The tree was cut down in early November. “Ruby” — as she’s known — is the third Capitol tree ever to come from the Pisgah forest. Her name is derived from the spruces's scientific name, Picea rubens. But before she arrived in Washington, “Ruby” had an adventure.
Making more than a dozen stops, Ruby was outfitted with a bag of water to stay hydrated as she traveled the state by truck — stopping in more places than some locals have ever visited. Ruby traveled through Avery, Surry and Craven counties and more before making her grand entrance to the nation's capital.
"I’m honored to be standing here today to be able to accept the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree. Woo! Come on now," Jim Kaufmann, director at the architect of the Capitol, Capitol grounds and arboretum, said Friday on Capitol Hill.
Receiving a warm welcome on a chilly November day, Ruby made her entrance outside the U.S. Capitol.
"The people’s tree. A little piece of North Carolina right here in Washington, D.C.," said Angela Coleman, the associate chief of the USDA Forest Service.
Her locks were lifted, her branches were checked, a harness was attached — and then Ruby was lifted into her biggest stage yet — the nation’s capital.
Ruby will stand near the Capitol "for weeks as people from around the world" come to visit her.
Eventually, she will be covered with almost 10,000 lights and around 5,000 handmade ornaments from North Carolina. Each state is tasked with choosing special lights that meet specific criteria, ensuring durability in inclement weather. These lights must be visible for a distance of up to 70 feet.
The tree's ceremony will be hosted by the Speaker of the House on the West Lawn of the Capitol with members from the host state. The tree remains lit until the first week of January.
And once she comes down, she’ll be recycled, and her branches will be used to make musical instruments in North Carolina.