New Mexico definitely can deliver on enchantment. And this year, the proof will be seen in the spectacular 60-foot-tall blue spruce headed from the Questa Ranger District in the Carson National Forest to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
That’s right, New Mexico is providing a Christmas tree for the entire nation, the third time that’s happened since the tradition of “the people’s tree” started in 1964.
Before the tree arrives in D.C., those of us in Santa Fe will be able to see it in person from 5 p.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday at Santa Fe Place mall, 4250 Cerrillos Road. There will be ornament decorating activities, as well as a visit from Smokey Bear at the free event.
We aren’t the only town where the tree will visit — as it is delivered to the nation’s capital, our enchanting tree will stop at more than 25 communities along the way, ending with the official tree lighting on the west lawn in early December. The theme is Delivering Enchantment, something at which our state excels, with the tree’s journey a partnership between Carson National Forest and nonprofit Choose Outdoors. (It’s possible to follow the tree’s journey at www.capitoltreetracker.com).
This is New Mexico’s gift to the nation.
Before the country descends into the annual fake outrage over the so-called War on Christmas — which doesn’t exist — we should all take a moment to breathe in the scent of spruce. Christmas, even when Americans are not fighting over what greetings to use, can be a stressful time of year.
What with the pressure to buy presents people don’t need, the temptations of holiday food, too many parties and obligations, we take what should be a time of anticipation for the return of the light in dark winter and reduce it to an incessant indulgence in materialism.
Christmas in the United States, circa 2019, is a far cry from Bethlehem, with a couple forced to give birth in a manger, all because there was no room at the inn.
For New Mexico, the opportunity to supply a Christmas tree for the country gives our state recognition on a national level. It reminds people that, no, New Mexico is not home only to cacti and tumbleweeds; we have majestic mountains and grand forests and anticipate snow for another spectacular winter sports season. The harvesting of the tree earlier this month was a multicultural event, complete with a blessing and a giving of thanks for tree and its sacrifice.
For those who spurn cut Christmas trees and feel superior for doing so, we encourage you to buy a tree with a root ball and replant it after the holidays. Some people simply put up lights. That’s up to the individual.
Fake trees, however, have a larger environmental footprint than Christmas trees that are grown as a crop, according to botanist and St. Joseph’s University professor Chris Springer, speaking to online magazine The Verge. Tree farms keep planting trees and also provide wildlife and bird habitat, while fake trees are made of plastic and metal, all energy hogs. Many are shipped from China, another point against them from an environmental basis.
Even a cut Christmas tree can be mulched, becoming a soil enricher. And in Northern New Mexico, obtaining a permit and selecting a tree can help keep national forests healthy, as well as creating precious family memories. Buying from local landowners who sell trees also keeps dollars in the economy and supports our neighbors. Christmas trees can be a fresh, even environmentally prudent part of the holidays.
We are proud that New Mexico will be contributing to our national holiday celebration, especially with the emphasis of helping kids go back to nature.
Getting outdoors is good for our mental and physical health — and seeing the beautiful tree, complete with 10,000 hand-made ornaments from New Mexico, is bound to make more Americans want to see the forest where that beautiful tree grew tall and strong. Enchanting.