Did you know? A yule log burns no more

The Yule Log Washington PostIt wasn’t until I read a letter to the editor in The Washington Post that I remember that there was a yule log display  in President’s Park near the National Christmas tree. For years, huge logs, lifted and deposited by forklift and guarded by a National Park Service employee, burned in the fire pit . Before Roger and I visited President’s Park in 2012 to visit the National Christmas Tree, I vaguely remember standing on the Ellipse on a cold December evening sometime in my childhood–probably the mid-70’s.  With the prompting of this article, I think I remember the fire pit!  (I am going to consult my mother on this issue.)

The yule log was discontinued before the Christmas 2012 season, the explanation being that the design of the annual display left no room for the fire pit, so it was covered over.  I, for one, didn’t realize that we have lost a treasure–until it was too late!  I did find a Facebook page dedicated to resurrecting the fire pit: Bring Back the Yule Log. I’ll be following that page, too.

Here is a more recent letter written by Marsha Schmidt on January 4, 2014 explaining her memory of the yule log and her efforts to have it reinstated.  I think that Jeremy and I should support the return of the yule log and make it our special 2014 mission!

National Christmas Tree Railroad–Worth the visit

National Tree DaytimeThe weather outside was frightful, especially in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania where Roger and I had planned to spend our Christmas week.  Road trip postponed, Roger surprised me with a visit to Washington, D.C. to see the Birds of Paradise exhibit at the National Geographic Museum.  Knowing we would be just blocks from the White House, I orchestrated a quick side trip to see the National Christmas Tree.

Jeremy and I talked about the National Tree several times on The Yule Log last year, including this update about the replacement tree that Jeremy wrote last May. That tree did not survive, and another (the fifth in the National Tree history) was planted in late October. The last time I saw the tree was in the late 1960’s.

By day, the tree was underwhelming, but that didn’t stop crowds of visitors.  I was distracted by a study of the Christmas Pathway of Peace, where I examined, with my crafter’s eye, each of the state ornament offerings.  New York is hands-down my favorite, and I am including a link to all of the ornaments of the state trees so you can see them yourself.  On the website they’re much prettier.  In person, they were a little worse for wear from all the holiday wind, rain and snow. (The photos here are of New York’s tree and Maine’s tree–for our friend Denise in Maine.)New YorkMaine

Roger was attracted to the enormous train garden, which did not exist during my childhood visit.  This is the 19th anniversary of the Christmas Tree Railroad, lovingly created and maintained by a local group of train enthusiasts, has nine train loops, three trolleys, three villages, and over a thousand feet of track.  Children especially were glued to the railing, watching the trains, and we noticed that quite a few visitors had thrown change, mostly pennies, into the open cars of the train.  The brainchild of a local man, Bill Bucshmeier, the organization how has major sponsors and is now incorporated as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt corporation. The group works with the National Park Service,  coordinating the display each year. They also hold off-season meetings and work groups where new ideas are discussed and goals are established for the upcoming year.

If you would like to make a donation to the National Christmas Tree Railroad, LLC or would like to become a member, send an email to info@nctrr.com.  The website has great photos and a detailed history of the train garden and the tree.

Meanwhile, I’m including another photo, also taken today, of Kaitlin Fleagle and Logan Pomeroy, two Linganore alums.  They were at the tree just a few hours after I was, and, clearly, the tree is meant to be seen at night (which you can do until January 1, 2013).  Thank you for the photo, Kaitlin!


100th Anniversary of Girl Scouting

Juliette Gordon Lowe: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts (Viking, 2012) by Stacy A Cordery, Ph.D. is just released in time for the centennial of Girl Scouting, first established March 12, 1912. In honor of the 100th Anniversary, Girl Scouts around the world are celebrating the life of this inspriational leader and the rich traditions established by Girl Scouting in their own lives.

In honor of her birthplace, Georgia’s contribution to this year’s 2011 National Christmas Tree was an ornament celebrating Girl Scouting. Savannah, Georgia is the home of the Juliette Gordon Lowe Birthplace, a museum that is open year-round but advertises that it is especially beautiful in the holiday season, when the Victorian home is decorated for Christmas, and visitors can learn about Victorian Christmas customs.

Girl Scouting was a formative part of my upbringing, and I can remember my mom’s efforts as Cookie Chairperson and summers at Girl Scout camp at Brighton Dam where we sang nonsense songs.  (See this link for a Girl Scout version of the 12 Days of Christmas.) If you have a Girl Scout in your life, you might want to consider gifts in honor of this special year. In addition to the the new biography, there are several books that are appropriate for different ages that might make nice presents.  The Central and Southern New Jersey Council advertises several 100th anniversary Christmas ornaments.

The other National Christmas Tree

We live a stone’s throw from Washington, D.C. and the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, but I’m wishing I had the airfare to fly to the other side of the country to see the other National Christmas Tree.  Donations are now being accepted for two plane tickets to Sanger, California, December 2012.  😉

While First Lady Grace Coolidge sponsored the first National Christmas Tree in 1923, in 1926, President Coolidge dedicated a large Sequoia in the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park as the Nation’s Christmas Tree.   This tree, the General Grant Tree, in the small Grant Grove, continues to stand and is the second largest tree in the world and the only living national shrine to war dead, as declared by President Eisenhower in 1956.

According to the Sanger, California District Chamber of Commerce website, “the first Christmas service at
 the base of the tree was inspired by R.J. Senior–then President of the Sanger
 Chamber of Commerce and Charles E. Lee–then Secretary of the Sanger Chamber of 
Commerce, in 1925.  In 1924, R.J. Senior
 was wandering through the Grant Grove area. 
He approached a huge tree, stopped, and stared in awe at the enormous 
tree.  As he stood looking at nature’s 
masterpiece, a small girl approached. 
After a moment of complete silence she said, mostly to herself, ‘What a 
lovely Christmas tree that would be.’ 
She then turned and ran off into the grove.  They never learned her name, but they
 couldn’t forget her words.”

In October 1949, nearby Sanger  was dedicated by the Post Office Department as the Nation’s Christmas Tree City.  The Chamber of Commerce sponsors the annual “Trek to the Tree,” always held on the second Saturday of December. Members of the Park Service lay a large wreath at the foot of the massive tree.

According to statistics, the massive giant is large enough
to produce enough lumber to construct thirty-five, 5 bedroom homes.  The tree stands 267 feet high; its lowest
 branch is 130 feet above the ground, and the circumference of its trunk is 107 

Oh, and if I do get to go to California, who wants to watch the dogs that weekend?