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Enchanted evening in D.C.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony was held Wednesday night. The tree is from the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico. (Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press)

Members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation — from left, Rep. Ben Ray Luján, Sen. Tom Udall, Sen. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Xochitl Torres Small — join U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as Arroyo Seco fourth grader Asher Dean prepares to light the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree. (CSPAN)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

It was an enchanted evening provided by the Land of Enchantment.

That is how U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi described the lighting ceremony of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on Wednesday night.

The 60-foot blue spruce from Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico was the star of the show that celebrated the state’s diverse culture and the nation’s public lands.

“Thank you, New Mexico, for making it so, the Land of Enchantment, for providing us with this beautiful, beautiful tree,” Pelosi said.

Two members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation – Rep. Ben Ray Luján and Sen. Tom Udall – delivered remarks, as did New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

“This is a special, special night for us as we share a little bit of the Land of Enchantment with the rest of the United States of America,” Luján said.

The tree made a 2,000-mile, two-week journey from the 3rd Congressional District, which he represents.

“Even the tree reflects New Mexico,” he said. “It is decorated with luminarias and farolitos, red and green chile, the yucca plant and our iconic hot air balloons. It is decorated with hundreds of ornaments handcrafted by New Mexicans.”

Vicki Christiansen, chief of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, said the tree and other companion trees from the state that are on display in government offices around the nation’s capital were decorated with more than 11,000 ornaments made by New Mexicans.

Luján said the tree “will be seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world.”

Udall used the celebration to call for the protection of public lands.

“Evergreens from our public lands have stood here as a symbol of warmth, a symbol of giving, the bounty of this great nation,” the senator said. “As we delight in the beauty of the tree before us, let us appreciate the beauty and majesty of our public lands. Let us recommit ourselves to protecting our natural heritage.”

He said the tree “now brings light to the nation’s capital, light of the values that New Mexicans hold dear, diversity and a celebration of one another. It is a time of celebrations of many traditions.”

Lujan Grisham called the use of a tree from New Mexico as the U.S. Capitol’s Christmas tree “one of the highlights of my first year as governor.”

She said the effort to deliver the Christmas tree “showcased the best of New Mexico.”

Two New Mexico residents played key roles in the ceremony.

Farmington native Chevel Shepherd, winner of Season 15 of “The Voice,” sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” drawing praise from Pelosi.

“Just by hearing her voice, our troubles are very far away,” the speaker said.

Asher Dean, a fourth grader from Arroyo Seco and winner of the 2019 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Essay Contest, lit the tree, surrounded by Pelosi, Luján, Udall, Lujan Grisham and the other members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation: Sen. Martin Heinrich, and Reps. Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small.

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