Mon Forest Towns Capitol Christmas Tree
The Mon National Forest was selected to supply the 2023 Capitol Christmas Tree- however, this is not the first time the Mon has helped bring Christmas cheer!
On a snowy November 1st, 2023, a Christmas celebration years in the making was underway in the heart of the Monongahela National Forest’s Greenbrier District. An area traditionally frequented by wandering hikers and wildlife had been shrouded in secrecy and transformed overnight into a bustling workshop rivaling Santa’s North Pole operations. The object of all this attention? A specially selected 63ft-tall Norway Spruce, named Wa’feem’tekwi (Bright Tree) by the Shawnee Tribe- soon to be on its way to the Capitol of the United States.
Christmas Tree History
Wa’feem’tekwi is the third Capitol Christmas Tree selected from the Monongahela National Forest since the program began in 1964 and will be the tallest Norway Spruce to grace the White House’s West Lawn.
While West Virginian trees have made their way to the nation’s Capitol in the form of construction materials and paper products for over a century, 1970 was a year of firsts. Not only was it the first Norway Spruce chosen, but the Monongahela had the honor of being the first National Forest to contribute a tree for DC’s Christmas celebrations- a tradition that continues to this day.
The Norway Spruce itself is a West Virginia transplant whose notoriety lies with the efforts of Austrian-born forester Max Rothkugel, who, under the direction of George Craig and the United State’s first Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot, developed a plantation to harvest the hardwoods. Although the National Forest and partners like the Central Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative (CASRI) are presently working to return native Red Spruces to the Mon, Rothkugel’s innovations remain a symbol of 20th Century America’s changing perspective on natural resource management, ushering in a new focus on sustainability. Visitors can still hike through West Virginia’s oldest tree plantation via the Monongahela National Forest’s Smoke Camp Trail and Rothkugel Interpretive Loop just minutes outside Durbin.
In 1976, the Monongahela National Forest was again tapped to provide a national symbol for Christmas cheer, this time in the form of a 41ft-tall Red Spruce. Located right outside of Richwood in the Gauley District of the National Forest, the tree was packaged with help from Richwoods Boy Scout Troop 269 before arriving in the town center accompanied by the tune of the Star-Spangled Banner and the words of Joyce Kilmer’s “Trees.”
For many of our Mon Forest Towns, this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree was a homecoming, a reminder of the region’s role in building America, and an opportunity to share an endlessly wild and wonderful holiday spirit. This year, the Mon sent Wa’feem’tekwi to its new home with a whole host of decorations. Led by the Elkins Sewing Center, quilters from across the Mon contributed to a stunning skirt for the Christmas Tree unveiled at the Mountain State Forest Festival, and West Virginia residents created a plethora of ornaments using natural and repurposed materials to celebrate the state’s rich history and natural beauty. As the great-great-grandson of one of the Monongahela National Forest’s first superintendents and winner of this year’s Capitol Christmas Tree Essay Contest wrote: “I love that I have a great connection to one of West Virginia’s forest treasures.”
Christmas Tree Tour
After being cut down by two expert West Virginia sawmen and carefully packaged and loaded onto an enormous trailer, Wa’feem’tekwi began the next step in its journey to the Capitol- a tour of West Virginia. Arriving in Elkins with a parade, serenades from local musicians, and Santa’s “Elfkin” dignitaries, residents wrote their names on the trailer, met with Forest Service staff, and shared their favorite things about the Monongahela. Wa’feem’tekwi’s stop in another one of our Mon Forest Towns, Marlinton, was accompanied by the local youth mountain biking club and traditional West Virginia tunes.
Wa’feem’tekwi will continue touring West Virginia and visiting our Mon Forest Towns on its way to the Capitol, so be sure to stop by, grab some hot chocolate, and find your Mon!
➤ Upper Tract, WV, at the Swilled Dog Distillery– November 12th, 2:00-4:00 PM
➤ Davis, WV at Davis Yard & Fire Hall – November 13th, 4:00-6:00 PM
Your Very Own Tree
Want to bring a bit of the Mon-mas spirit home with you? The Monongahela National Forest offers Christmas Tree Permits for an unforgettable holiday experience!