Trek to “The Nation’s Christmas Tree” History
The General Grant Tree was fittingly named the Nation’s Christmas Tree because of its age and size. It stands in Grant Grove of the Kings Canyon Nation Park. This monarch in both age and stature has stood for an estimated 2,000-4,000 years and has grown to the height of 267 feet. The General Grant Tree was officially dedicated as the Nation’s Christmas Tree on April 28, 1926 by the United States Department of the Interior.
On October 1, 1949, Sanger, California was recognized by the Post Office Department as the Nation’s Christmas Tree City. Because of such dedication, and because of the work done and interest shown by the citizens of Sanger, California, the Nation’s Christmas Tree has become known nationally and internationally.
Congress, by public law 441, made the General Grant Tree a National Shrine on March 29, 1956. Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, personal representative of the President of the United States, officially dedicated this tree on November 11, 1956 as a perpetual shrine to our nation’s war dead, during a special ceremony at the base of the tree.
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.
The following Christmas, Senior, Lee, and some friends trekked over what was then a snow covered dirt road to the park. They placed some flowers beside the tree and held a short service.
Upon returning home Lee wrote a letter to President Calvin Coolidge. Four months later, on April 28, 1926, the president adopted Lee’s suggestion and officially designated the General Grant Tree as the Nation’s Christmas Tree.
Ever since 1926 these services have been an annual event. The service concludes the Christmas Festival Celebration in which the citizens of Sanger and people from all over the world join in stimulating the spirit of “Peace on Earth, Good Will To All Men”. Each year the crowds gather, they sing, pray, and pay tribute to this wonder of nature.
The members of the National Park Service join in the services by placing a wreath at the base of the tree. During the war years, when travel was restricted due to gas rationing, there were no official services. However, a member of the National Park Service walked to the tree and placed a wreath at its base.
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 feet.
Due to the heavy traffic in the Park and very limited parking space at the tree, it is strongly suggested that you come to Sanger and ride the chartered buses up to the park. For weather and road conditions please call the Park Service at, 559-565-3341 ext. 941 or 942. Chains may be required at any time so please be prepared for winter weather conditions. Bus reservations will be taken starting November 1st and can be made by calling the Chamber office.