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Kids’ art at the National Christmas Tree highlights beauty of the U.S.

Dec. 6, 2022 Updated Tue., Dec. 6, 2022 at 5:23 p.m.

By Lela Nargi Washington Post

Are you ready for Christmas? More than 2,600 kids ages 4 to 19 sure are. They made drawings that were turned into ornaments to hang on 58 trees around the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. You can see them along the Pathway of Peace in President’s Park near the White House.

There’s been a national tree for 100 years. A cut tree was used each year until 1973, when the first live tree was planted. The current tree is a 27-foot white fir planted in October 2021. Kids and grown-ups have made ornaments for smaller trees around it since 1954. This year, children from 61 schools in every state participated, plus kids from Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories of Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. So did kids in Native American schools in New Mexico and Oklahoma, and kids in Belgium, Japan and Kentucky whose families are in the military.

Ariel Xiong is a 15-year-old freshman at the Oregon School for the Deaf in Portland. She communicates mostly in American Sign Language but says that with art she can express herself without words. She likes to work with standard pencils, colored pencils and charcoal pencils. A nature lover, Ariel drew an Oregon scene of mountains and evergreen trees on a moonlit night.

The iLearn Academy Charter School is on the island of Guam, a territory in the Philippine Sea. Seven-year-old Atisa Aguon drew a boy lifting the hand of an “aunty,” or older woman, to his forehead. “I wanted people to remember to do their best to respect those who are older than us,” she says. Atisa decorated her ornament with the words “Hafa Adai,” which is a greeting like hello in the Chamorro language. And “Biba,” which is similar to the word “hooray.” “People show their pride for the island by shouting ‘Biba,’ ” Atisa says.

Eight-year-old Leo Murer-Cruz made a collage of a hut and sailboat traditional for the island’s Chamorro people, a coconut tree, a turtle and flowers, to show that “the island is beautiful. I love my island,” he says. He was inspired to use this art form by his grandfather, who makes mosaics out of glass.

Analaura Morales and Daleyza Rangel, both 8, attend Bernalillo Elementary School outside the Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico. Their state is known for reports of UFO sightings, so Analaura drew bright-green aliens alongside red-and-green chile peppers, “one of the many foods that are eaten in New Mexico,” she says.

Daleyza drew chile peppers, too, along with corn and avocado for a bowl of posole soup, which her family eats on holidays. A second ornament features tall cactuses in front of the Sandia Mountains. “Sandia means watermelon in Spanish,” says Daleyza, “and when the sun sets the mountains look pink” like the inside of that fruit.

Bechtel Elementary is on a Marine Corps base in Okinawa, Japan. Fifth-graders were chosen to design ornaments. Jayden Silis Tovar drew a surfer off Miyako Island, inspired by its peacefulness. Max Boada drew colorful koi fish, which he says are a common symbol of strength found in ponds and shrines.

Gwen Phillips drew a hodgepodge of favorite images: Mount Fuji, a pagoda, cherry trees in blossom and old-fashioned wood houses. “I hope people would understand that Japan is not all about busy freeways or the electronics and technology,” Gwen said.

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IF YOU GO:

What: The National Christmas Tree and Pathway of Peace.

Where: 1450 Pennsylvania Avenue in Northwest Washington, D.C.

When: Through January 1. Park opens daily at 7:30 a.m. Tree lights turn on around 5 p.m. and turn off at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

How much: Free.

For more information: thenationaltree.org/visit-the-tree.

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