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The GW Hatchet

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Pathway of Peace: Reviewing states’ trees at the National Christmas Tree

Daniel Heuer | Staff Photographer
The National Christmas Tree sits at the center of a ring of smaller trees, each representing one of the fifty-eight U.S. states and territories.

You can’t go home again — that is unless you visit the National Christmas Tree.

While the massive fir tree at the center may draw most of the attention, the National Christmas Tree across from the White House is surrounded by smaller trees, lined up in what is called the Pathway of Peace, each decorated to represent a different state or territory with ornaments from students from the state. Here are our thoughts on how the various trees represent our home states.

New York
Eóighan Noonan | Senior Staff Writer

This year’s New York tree represents the state’s iconic landscape and terrain, featuring designs depicting state landmarks and symbols associated with New York, from upstate Buffalo to the borough of Brooklyn. Ornaments are donned with subway trains and slices of pizza, referencing symbols often associated with New York City, the cultural capital of the U.S. and famously the top-ranked city in the country for pizza. Several ornaments depicting apples also allude to NYC’s famous nickname, “The Big Apple.”

While many ornaments reference this landmark city, the tree — decorated by students from the upstate town of Marlboro — pays homage to the entire state’s gorgeous landscape. Several ornaments feature the Hudson River, apple trees, foxes and forests in a beautiful tribute to New York’s geographical makeup as home to treasures like the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains and the serene Hudson Valley.

Spanning from Manhattan to Albany, the variety of ornaments reminded me of my upbringing in the lowest point of the valley in between the tranquil expanse of upstate New York and the concrete jungle of the city.

Kathleen Gianni | Staff Writer

As a proud Pittsburgh native who often feels like my city is overshadowed by Philadelphia, I prepared to walk away disappointed, fearing a tree decorated with ornaments focused on Philly cheesesteak and Independence Hall. But after seeing the tree with only one Philly-related Liberty Bell ornament, I was upset with Pennsylvania’s representation at the state tree display for reasons other than the city rivalry.

I was rather disappointed by the excessive number of white-tailed deer ornaments that hung on the tree. While I appreciated a nod to the official state animal with one or two ornaments, deer took over nearly half of the tree’s decorations with a total of nine visible deer-related ornaments — a bit much for a state animal shared by 11 other states.

I didn’t feel like the deer-centric tree accurately depicted the rich history and culture of my state. I would have rather seen decorations relating to Pennsylvania’s claims to fame like Taylor Swift, Hershey’s chocolate and maybe even the Eagles or Steelers, making for a more balanced representation of the state that moves beyond too many deer.

Dylan Ebs | Staff Writer

The decorations on the Lone Star State’s tree depict iconic Texas landmarks like the Alamo and gorgeous views of the Hill Country. Though Texas is known for its vast, rural landscape, I was surprised to see the lack of ornaments honoring the state’s cities.

I was born and raised in Austin, and the city is home to many highlights of Texas, including the state Capitol and the “Greetings from Austin” mural, a popular spot for Instagram photos. Any of these landmarks would’ve made for an aesthetically pleasing ornament, yet none made the cut.

But, despite these shortcomings, I enjoyed seeing the aspects of Texas that were represented. Multiple ornaments included references to “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” Alvino Rey’s iconic 1941 song performed most famously by Alvino Rey about the beauty of the state.

Other ornaments depicted the state’s high speed limits, one of my favorite parts of my home. I felt the closest to my hometown when I saw a longhorn — the mascot for the University of Texas at Austin — on an ornament, which was perfect timing as Texas had just made the College Football Playoff.

Diana Anos | Reporter

The Illinois Christmas tree depicts both farm scenes and the Windy City itself. The ornaments featured icons from the state like a cardinal and common blue violet, central both in an official capacity and to my own experiences growing up in Illinois. I often see cardinals, the state bird, around my backyard at home.

There were a few scenes from Chicago, including the skyline and the Bean, a mirrored statue of a bean in Millennium Park. When my family and I would walk around the city and happen upon the statue, we would take mirror selfies in its reflection.

While the tree did encapsulate some parts of Illinois, I wish I had seen some more symbols from the state, especially because Chicago is infamous for different food items — an extra thick and gooey Chicago-style pizza and hot dogs, never with ketchup of course — and a large pop culture scene. Many films from director John Hughes were filmed in the Chicagoland area, including a holiday favorite, “Home Alone.” Despite my gripes, all of the ornaments were colorful and detailed and allowed me to reflect on some of my favorite memories from Illinois.

New Jersey
Carly Cavanaugh | Reporter

New Jersey often gets a bad rap, stereotyped as a knockoff New York or as being filled with “Jersey Shore” wannabes. But most residents agree that Jersey pride runs deep due to its often underrepresented beauty and diversity. Looking at the state Christmas tree, I was reminded of Jersey staples like the views of the shore, its farmland and its sea and wildlife. For instance, the American goldfinch, New Jersey’s state bird, was displayed, along with a horse, the state’s animal.

I often forget about the expansiveness of New Jersey’s landscapes. Despite being the densest state in the union, the sprawling forests and state parks of South Jersey are often overlooked, but ornaments highlighting fields of violets and serene woodlands showed these views off. The tree was an accurate depiction of the Garden State’s natural diversity and rich history.

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