National Parks Contribute Holiday Ornaments to White House Christmas Tree

Holiday ornaments depicting scenes from the national parks are dangling from the White House Christmas tree, a nod to the National Park Service's upcoming centennial.

The ornaments from across the park system were designed by artists -- some active-duty rangers, some retired, some professional artists.

“It is an amazing honor for the National Park Service to be selected as the theme for the White House holiday decorations by the President and Mrs. Bush,” said Park Service Director Mary Bomar. “Mrs. Bush is the best champion for our national parks, and the beautiful decorations in each state room showcase the natural and historical treasures found in parks throughout the country.”

Throughout the White House holiday displays incorporate the wide variety of natural, cultural, and recreational features preserved by the National Park Service. Models of icons such as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and the Statue of Liberty share space with paintings of scenic vistas from Grand Canyon, Zion, and Rocky Mountain national parks. Holiday garlands intertwined with park objects including seashells, pine cones, and gold aspen leaves add to each room’s festive feel.

The official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room, an 18-foot-tall Fraser fir from North Carolina, is adorned with 347 handmade ornaments depicting national parks. “Each ornament on the magnificent 18-foot Fraser fir was designed by an artist selected by the park,” said Bomar. “The ornaments tell the stories of our parks, just as our parks tell the stories of our nation.”

The resulting ornaments vary greatly in design, from one that depicts the Historic Entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park to another that captures the jaw-dropping horizon at Grand Teton National Park.

Accompanying the White House Christmas tree is a scaled-down, but architecturally accurate, gingerbread reproduction of the south view of the White House, a unit of the National Park Service. Bush family pets Barney, Miss Beazley, and Willie can be seen frolicking on the lawn with moose, elk, raccoons, and other animals found in national parks.

You can see how some of the ornaments turned out at this site. Plus, the Traveler will be featuring an ornament a day on its home page during the coming weeks.

Unfortunately, replicas of these ornaments are not for sale.


What is the big hubbub about the ornaments on the tree? I keep reading stories all over the internet about this. First of all, for me personally as a District resident (albeit one about to move to Montana in a few weeks) the only reason I've been to the Yellowstone Christmas tree was to protest the war in Iraq. And, even then, you're forced to stand on a street corner pretty far away from the tree, which I honestly in all my years here have never seen and never cared to see.

Nice irony that a tree has been chopped down to honor places where trees are generally left to stand, even long after they are dead.

If you are coming to DC, come see the town. I don't know how many come just to see the Christmas tree (probably too many); I'm astounded every year to hear a million people come every year just to see the cherry blossom festival. And, as for the homage to the parks, I'm at least glad some local artists got some money out of it. Beyond that, I don't know why this has gotten any smidgen of ink in the press (and it's gotten a fair amount).

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

I think it's a wonderful homage to our National Parks, and I, personally, would love to see the vistas portrayed on the ornaments. At least, our National Parks have been brought to the front of everyone's mind and maybe in so doing, people will become more interested in their preservation. Laura Bush is a powerful advocate of our National Parks and bringing these images to the forefront is a good way to get people thinking.

Wow, that anti-ornament rant sure was a downer!

I'm not particularly interested in the tree or the ornaments but some people really dig it so why not let them have their fun?

Happy holidays!

I'd be interested in seeing the ornament for Andersonville Prison (NHS).

I'm just amazed at all the STUFF that the WhiteHouse puts out and probably needs to be stored for posterity somewhere in Oxon Hill or College Park in the mother of all warehouses.

But wait! Where's the White House menorah made from Klondike Gold Rush ore? And how about the White House's Kwanzaa Mkeka made from the Tallgrass Prarie Nat'l Preserve??

I agree about the rant on the ornaments being a downer.It was not in any way helpful to our parks, or really about the parks. It was only negative and jaded. It is good to read other posts about hope and care for our parks.

As the mother of one of the designers of a Christmas tree ball, I would like to see the ball and would like to be able to buy a copy for the benefit of that National Park,

So what if it was a downer? If love of the national parks is so sensitive and tenuous that my own experience here with the White House Christmas tree so affects you, then there's really little hope (but of course there's hope). I deeply love the places that are our national parks with an intense passion, especially the places that have touched my experience. I even deeply love places probably no one would think to love - a tree drooping in Lafayette Park, a bench used by a homeless man in Franklin Square, a mile marker on the GW Parkway, a little cave in Great Falls National Park, birds along the C&O Canal. And, that's a smidgen of ink I would care to read.

I don't care to read about lip service paid by the White House on its annual Christmas tree, a place where I know the context of such events. I know that while the Administration glories in the festivities of the tree (just like pardoning the turkey that dies within a year from the hormones pumped into it) that has been chopped down, they undermine the so called democracy this country has even when doing that. A friend of mine for years has organized protest Christmas caroling, trying to draw attention to the wars of this country - he's treated like a danger to the nation and set off by himself. But, that's just standard fare for detractors in the country - the stories I could tell you (that one's nothing). Jaded? You bet! I'm angry that places that are worth loving have been co-opted by a government that doesn't care at all about them. They co-opt Christmas, they co-opt trees, and they co-opt parks (and create "parks" in the first place - places that are so much more). And, if parks advocates are happy for the scrap of attention, and feel the need for this display to raise our spirits, that's going to bring out the cynic in me every time, especially one placed in the local situation and the local context where I can see the environment, see the homeless freezing on those park benches, having been out there at nights at times trying to check on them. There is plenty of joy even in those moments, but no I'm not prepared to let people just have their fun when I see the expense of that fun all around me; there's more to the ornament on the tree, there's the world around that tree as well - and there's joy there, too - believe me).

Because, deep down, I'm not the least bit jaded or cynical and know we can do a whole lot better than this, that there's a lot more deserving our ink and our press, in terms of both the District of Columbia (its parks or its people), and in terms of the national parks at large. In this context, it's partly my own fault, as Kurt and Jeremy have invited me to write here, and I have yet to do so. But, it's still frustrating to see things like this in the newspapers. I've been forced to share reports in my own newspaper. There is so much we might say; that there are ornaments on the national Christmas tree featuring national parks is not something worth our time when we consider the full context of this display. And, not just my time, but I'd challenge us to look deep down in our experiences and know that there's much more we can share and do on behalf of the parks, on behalf of places very special to us. Because, deep down, we don't have to take joy in a cynical display but from the community of action and shared experience that can do something better.

Jim Macdonald
The Magic of Yellowstone
Yellowstone Newspaper
Jim's Eclectic World

So this is tangential, and I'm sure to take heat over it, but:

they undermine the so called democracy this country has even when doing that

If you search for "democracy" on NPT, you'll get 3 pages of results.

Until recently, I had no idea that the United States of America as set up by the Founders is not a democracy. The word democracy does not appear in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. In fact, the founders were wary of democratic rule:

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin told an inquisitive citizen that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention gave the people "a Republic, if you can keep it."

Madison, the father of the Constitution, could not have been more explicit in his fear and concern for democracies. "Democracies," he said, "have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their death."

The Founders clearly understood the dangers of a democracy. Edmund Randolph of Virginia described the effort to deal with the issue at the Constitutional Convention: "The general object was to produce a cure for the evils under which the United States labored; that in tracing these evils to their origins, every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy."

Read more here.

Don't feel too badly Frank. I've tried in vain to educate some of the posters that our "democracy" is actually a fabrication, a media and politically driven term, and has absolutely nothing to do with the actual governmental practice in this country. I've been berated by the less than well informed for my ignorance of how our system works. These same contributors don't understand the nuances between the systems of democracy and republic any more than they understand the unique separation between Facists and Nazis. A fully functioning, literal democracy is not feasible in our modern society, yet we, then general public, tend to believe the media hype surrounding our alleged form of government. And unfortunately, the differences between these two forms of government are quite wide. If we were an actual democracy, special interest groups would find it much more difficult and costly to operate effectively. But on the other hand, you would be at the mercy of the uninformed voter to have a say in every issue. Not that this point would be any differrent from things as they currently stand in our general elections, but currently we vote on representation, not actual issues concerning and governing the people. That, to me, is the major deficiency is our practice. We elect numbskulls who will outright lie in every campaign speech about what they stand for, based on what the gathered crowds want to hear, and then we have the nerve to act indignant when the "vote their conscience", as directed by the afore mentioned interest groups of course. But we deserve exactly what we get until the public has the balls to admit to their ignorant and nonchalant attitudes, educate themselves, then take the required actions to corrrect the faults that lie within the existing system.

Our national ignorance is so complete that we still insist on "spreading a democratic system of government throughout the world". The world doesn't know how lucky it is to be devoid of true democratic regimes. It doesn't work, it never has worked, and in the world societies as they exist today, it never can work. It requires too much cooperation among those governed, too much time invested on personal education of issues, too much time actively taking part in the system, and a thorough understanding of the "best interests" of the nation, which in our current US example, the government says we're not capable of understanding. That is a perfect example of those in power wanting to sequester knowledge, which is after all the only power, from the masses whom they were elected to represent and SERVE. Some system we've got, and yet we have the arrogance to try and infect the rest of the world with our "advanced" form of government.

But don't the ornaments look pretty? If they only meant something beyond lip service and window dressing......

Frank-----I thought you'd enjoy these ripostes from H.L. Mencken on the subject of democracy:

"Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage."

"Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance."

"Democracy, too, is a religion. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses."

Oh how we could use another Mencken here in the 21st century.

The founders abhorred democracy because they saw it for what it was, pure and simple mob rule. A system that uses the ballot box to elect proxies which can then use state derived force to steal from one to give to another, and thus gain immense political power, is nothing more nor less than immoral tyranny. With the modern-day ability to electronically stuff ballots in a given candidates favor (remember Ohio in the last presidential election?) the contemporary American plebiscite is as big a farce as those that were held in the old Soviet Union.

Frank, don't expect a population that was indoctrinated in government run schools to grasp this concept with any degree of ease of comprehension. The democratic principle has been so thoroughly drummed into their heads by their government masters that it will take a long period of recovery after the nation has dissolved into ruin for them to wake up to other more tangible forms of truth, justice and the American way.

In the meantime keep the faith and remember that there are still many sincere folks in Russia who pine for the "stability" of Stalin and others in our beloved land that fervently cling to their belief in the tooth fairy and the democratically pure and sacred principle of group entitlement embodied in a check from an Orwellian sounding agency called Social Security.

What's this about Laura Bush being an advocate for the parks? Really? She needs to sit down and have a serious talk with her husband.

Gee, Jim, I never could imagine someone so sensitive over Christmas tree ornaments but you obviously are. If you weren’t so, then you could understand how such ornaments will make the public more aware of the NPS, its role, and how individuals can help the NPS. I’ve given 25 years of volunteer service to the NPS in many ways: committees for the National Park Foundation, served on Friends boards for NPS sites, and given time helping at NPS sites.

I believe that if everyone helped in such ways instead of being so sensitive to Christmas tree ornaments, then our parks and monuments would be in great shape. I’m also confident that all of us can better serve the NPS by contributing more while complaining less, which would be a great lesson for you to learn.

That is what this year’s White House Christmas tree hopes to do. And, it’s succeeding because of all the good news from it this Christmas season.

Merry Christmas,

Oh my God. There really IS an Andersonville Prison NHS Christmas Tree Ornament! I thought Beamis was being sarcastic! Read about it here: Unfortnately, there's no photo...

As a National Park lover and visitor, I wish they would put these ornaments for sale - this could be a great fundraiser for our National Parks. Then this would really make a difference for our parks.