The Capitol’s 2020 Tree Lighting Goes Virtual
Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom invite you and your family to enjoy the 89th Annual California State Capitol Virtual Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday, December 11, 2020 at 5:30 p.m. in the comfort of your own home. Hosted by America’s Got Talent 2020 winner Brandon Leake, featuring interfaith traditions and musical performances from across the state including California’s own, Michael Franti.
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 over 10,000 energy efficient LED lights.
2020 marks 37 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 89 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 11, 2020