Historical Holiday Weather: First Capitol Christmas Tree

On Christmas Eve 1913, over 20,000 spectators gathered at the U.S. Capitol building for the first national Christmas celebration in Washington, DC. After a sunny morning, the Nation’s capital saw increasing cloudiness throughout the afternoon, with a high of 46°F after a low of 34°F. A faint solar halo was observed at 11:05 a.m.—evidence that high cirrus clouds, ahead of a storm system, were present.

A chorus of 1,000 local singers entertained the crowd as the Christmas tree, a 40-foot Norway spruce, came alive with light. Though it had rained 0.61 inches the day prior, spectators were fortunate. The rain held off all Christmas Eve, but resumed on Christmas Day at 10:30 a.m. and continued into the 26th, totaling 1.31 inches. There was no white Christmas in Washington, DC, that year!

NCEI is responsible for storing data like the surface weather observations taken on Christmas Eve 1913 at Washington, DC. Our archive of climate, coastal, ocean, and geophysical data is the largest in the world, with over 25 petabytes of digital data available to users. A team of experts works to ensure the quality and integrity of these data for present and future generations.

To learn more about the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, visit the National Park Service’s History of the National Christmas Trees page. And, download our infographic for an overview of the first national Christmas celebration.

Infographic describing the lighting of the first Capitol Christmas tree and the weather conditions that day