White House Christmas tree is blown over by wind

First Lady Jill Biden welcomes the 2023 National Christmas Tree (Michael Reynolds/EPA)
First Lady Jill Biden welcomes the 2023 National Christmas Tree (Michael Reynolds/EPA)

The White House Christmas tree has been blown over by strong winds two days before its official lighting ceremony.

Numerous Washington DC journalists spotted the so-called "National Christmas Tree" lying on its side in the presidential park on Tuesday afternoon, strewn with lights.

The National Park Service said the tree had already been fully decorated when it was felled by an intense gust at around 1pm.

Workers brought in a crane to lift the substantial pine, which is many times the height of a person, and it was fully upright once again as of 6pm local time.

The National Weather Service had previously issued a hazardous weather notice for the DC region, warning of "occasional gusts" that could rise to "gale force".

“The National Park Service is currently evaluating the National Christmas Tree, which fell over on Nov. 28 during a strong wind gust this afternoon,” an NPS statement said. “As the saying goes, ‘the show must go on,’ and the NPS and our event partners are looking at all possibilities to ensure a successful event this year. We will provide updates when they become available.”

The tree was due to be unveiled on Thursday.

The National Christmas Tree has been erected outside the White House every year since 1923, when the nascent electrical power industry lobbied the Calvin Coolidge administration to find some way of persuading more Americans to buy Christmas lights.

As many as 9,000 people flocked to see the fully illuminated fir tree, but Black citizens were reportedly only permitted to see it after white citizens had gone home.

Since 1973 the ceremony has used a living tree that stays in the presidential park all year round, although many have met unhappy fates such as contracting fungal disease or being damaged by climbers.

The first tree died after three years because it could not handle the warm climate of the Potomac region, and its successor lasted only a year before being turned into a Yule log.

The third tree, however, lasted an impressive 42 years before being snapped in two by strong winds in 2011.