Friday, December 23, 2022

The Nation's Christmas Tree by Zina Abbott


My husband and I have not done much traveling since the Covid-19 Pandemic started. However, we did wish to make at least one trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains this past summer. Over the years, we usually opt to go to Yosemite National Park. This year, since we were aware the Sequoia National Park, just south of Yosemite, had suffered devastating fires two summers in the row, we decided we needed to visit before the whole thing burned to the ground.


Map ctsy NPS, circled Gen. Grant Grove author addition

King’s Canyon National Park and Sequoia National Park are immediately next to each other. In some places, they appear to intertwine. Approaching from the north, we ended up entering King’s Canyon NP first and followed the signs to the General Grant Grove, where we found the General Grant Tree.

What I found interesting was finding the sign that identified it as also being “The Nation’s Christmas Tree.”

Here is a little history of these national parks.  Sequoia National Park was established on September 25, 1890, making it our country’s second national park. King’s Canyon National Park was not established until fifty years later. However, a week after Sequoia NP was established, General Grant National Park was established. The motivation behind the formation of these parks was to protect these living organisms—specifically, the giant Sequoia trees—from logging.

Top of General Grant Tree

The size and grandeur of these trees began to capture the public’s attention long before the land on which they grew was set aside as national parks.

In the 1867, while Ulysses S. Grant still rode the crest of popularity as the favored Union general of the Civil War, one  of the giant sequoias was named the General Grant Tree in his honor by Lucretia Baker. She mailed Gen. Grant branches from the tree. 

He responded with the following letter:

"Your favor of the 5th of September, by Express, accompanying a box containing branches &c. from the largest tree in California, and no doubt in the world, which too partial friends have done me the honor to name after me, is at hand. Please accept my thanks for thus remembering me and also for the kind expressions of regard contained in your letter."


Efforts to protect the giant Sequoia trees in general, and specifically the General Grant Tree began in the 1870s.

In October of 1879, upon returning from a world tour, Pres. Grant did take the opportunity to visit the giant sequoia trees in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, plus he toured Yosemite Valley for six days.

In 1924, a local California man was approached by a young girl who declared that the General Grant Tree would make a lovely Christmas tree. The following year, the nearby community of Sanger sponsored a Christmas service at the tree—a tradition that has continued.


Since 1925, each Christmas, a wreath has been placed at the base of the General Grant Tree to honor those who have served in the nation’s armed forces.

In 1926, President Coolidge officially designated the General Grant Tree as the “Nation’s Christmas Tree.”

In 1956, thirty years later, President Eisenhower designated the tree as a National Shrine. The purpose was to “provide further recognition of the Nation’s Christmas Tree as a living symbol of our American Heritage…in memory of the men and women of the Armed Forces who have served and fought and died to keep this Nation free…” It was officially dedicated on Veteran’s day in 1956.

In the 1800s, thousands traveled to the parks to see these giant trees believed to be the world’s oldest living organisms. I'm grateful my husband and joined the throngs of people who came to view these wonders of nature this past year. I am also grateful the 2022 fire season passed without there being a major fire that threatened these beautiful giants.


My Christmas romance this year is Marigold from the Christmas Quilt Brides series. You may find the book description and purchase link by CLICKING HERE.







1 comment:

Julie Lence said...

Hi Zina. So glad you and your husband were able to make the trip this summer. When hubby retires, I'd love to visit and see these magnificent trees in person. Thank you for sharing the history and dedication of the National Christmas Tree. That is a part of history I never heard about and enjoyed learning from you. Hugs and Merry Christmas!