In a bold affront to the holiday season, the National Christmas Tree eschewed its festive duties and fell over on Tuesday afternoon, alarming federal park workers and temporarily throwing the plans for the national tree-lighting ceremony into question.
This story is basically an insert-your-own metaphor exercise.
People who don’t much like the president have already compared the tree to President Biden’s economic policies, and criticized Mr. Biden’s inability to keep the tree from falling over, as if ensuring the tethering of a Christmas tree to the frigid earth were his sole responsibility as president. (Even if it was, he was in Georgia, at a memorial service for the former first lady Rosalynn Carter.)
Others may find this unfestive mishap oddly relatable. Who among us hasn’t rebelled against the American urge to celebrate Christmas almost an entire month early? Maybe the tree was just tired! Or maybe the pressure was too much: This tree replaced one that had been planted but was removed after it was stricken with a fungal disease. (The debate over using a cut Christmas tree or a planted one has been raging in the tree community for decades.)
Anyway, the episode unfolded when a strong gust of wind forced the 40-foot Norway spruce to the ground, Jasmine Shanti, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service, said in an email. As night fell on Tuesday, workers were using a crane to right the spruce, which had arrived from West Virginia earlier in the month to be installed on the Ellipse, a park just south of the White House. In a particularly pitiful sign of holiday optimism, the tree’s lights were still on as it lay on its side.
Initially, it seemed unclear if the original tree would be in any condition to play the lead role in the ceremony on Thursday evening, an event that will feature celebrities, including the singer Dionne Warwick, who is amazing on X, and Darren Criss, who has three million followers on Instagram.
But Ms. Shanti said in a second email that the tree, which had fallen at about 1 p.m., was upright again by 6 p.m. after workers repaired a snapped cable and assessed the tree’s condition.
“The show will go on,” she wrote.
One hundred years ago, Grace Coolidge, the first lady, allowed District of Columbia Public Schools to plant a tree on the Ellipse, according to the National Park Service’s extensive accounting of the history of the National Christmas Tree. Since 1923, others have fallen. In 2011, the tree that had been planted on the Ellipse in 1978 also blew over after being hit by high-speed winds. And that tree had replaced another in 1977, which had only lasted a few months.
In a development that should surprise no one who lives in Washington, the area has become a more blustery place over the years. According to a weather analysis by The Capitol Weather Gang at The Washington Post, large gusts have increased since the mid-2000s, which totally checks out.