Capitol Tree Lighting

2019 Capitol Christmas Tree

Capitol’s 2021 Tree Lighting

Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom invite you and your family to enjoy the 90th Annual California State Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony on Thursday, December 2, 2021, at 5:30 p.m. Livestream: The event will be livestreamed on the California Governor’s Office YouTubeTwitter and Facebook accounts. Broadcast: KCRA 3 will also broadcast this year’s event in the Sacramento region.

The celebration, which dates back to the early 1930’s, will highlight California’s diverse holiday traditions, native heritage and spirit of inclusion. Performers for this year’s celebrations will include program hosts Renel Brooks-Moon and Todd Leitz, announcers for the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively, as well as actress and singer Amber Riley, the Wilton Rancheria tribe, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, SF Gay Men’s Chorus, mariachi singer Pedrito Fregoso, and rising R&B singer-songwriter and Sacramento Area Youth Speaks Poet Danielle “Yelly” Scales.

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History of the California State Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony

The first use of the California State Capitol occurred during a holiday celebration in December of 1869. The holiday tree lighting ceremony began in 1931 with Governor James Rolph. He rearranged his main office located at that time in the west wing of the Capitol to accommodate a large decorated tree central to a gift exchange among staff. This informal tradition continued with the next 6 governors. In 1951, the Governor’s office moved to its present location in the East Annex as did the holiday tree lighting ceremony.

Hand-Crafted Ornaments and Tradition of Tree Lighters & DDS

In 1983 the Governor together with the Department of General Services and the Department of Developmental Services updated the ceremony with a large tree placed on the west steps and decorated with ornaments hand made by children and adults with developmental disabilities at community and state-operated developmental centers’ art programs.

Creating ornaments for the tree is a project that is enjoyed by many individuals with developmental disabilities throughout the state. Each year, there are new themes, and creativity never ends. The ornaments must be constructed of materials that will withstand wind and rain. The tree is also decorated with approximately 14,000 ultra-low wattage LED lights.

2021 marks 38 years since California Governor Deukmejian started the tradition of inviting a child with developmental disabilities who receives services from one of the 21 nonprofit regional centers in the state, to hang an ornament on the Capitol tree and “hit the switch” to light the tree and help kick off the holiday season for all Californians.

For over 90 years, the Governor’s Tree lighting has evolved from a small office celebration into California’s statewide commemoration kicking off the holiday season.


Last modified: December 1, 2021