Submit holiday cheer from the Land of Enchantment

By Ryn Gargulinski: QCS

Some use salt shakers. Others have fashioned decorated fish hooks to hang around flour canisters. Still more use ceramic molds or clothespins.

Hide-A-Way Ceramic owner Karlene Mowles said she’s seen a wide array of Christmas ornaments in her five years in the art business. Now New Mexicans get a chance to strut their holiday stuff at the U.S. Capitol by adorning the Washington, D.C., Christmas trees if they send them in by Oct. 21.

As part of the 2005 Capitol Holiday Tree Ornament Project, 5,000 handmade ornaments are needed to spruce up the official People’s Tree and 65 smaller companion trees.

New Mexico students from Kindergarten through grade 12, from any type of schooling, are invited to submit the 3,000 ornaments that will embellish the big tree stuck fast on Capitol Hill. As a bonus, all students under the age of 18 who enter will get a chance to win a holiday trip to Washington, D.C., with their parents or guardian and their teacher if their entry is chosen in a drawing, according to the project Web site.

Non-students, community groups, organizations, artisans and Native American groups are invited to submit the 2,000 smaller ornaments that will hang on the 65 smaller companion trees found throughout government offices.
The big tree itself is a native of the Land of Enchantment, the second time the state has been chosen to supply the capitol tree, according to a release from U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici R-N.M.

“It is an honor for New Mexico to provide the nation’s Capitol Holiday Tree this year, particularly because the Forest Service is celebrating its 100th anniversary,” Domenici said.

Handpicked by U.S. Capitol Landscape Architect Matthew Evans, the project Web site said Evans spent two days with his crew scouring the Santa Fe National Forest for the ideal centerpiece to grace this year’s national holiday display. The site said an 80-foot Engelmann Spruce, found 8,500 feet above sea level, beat out nine other “beauty contest” candidates and was chosen as the winner.

The companion trees, which consist of 65 smaller trees to decorate areas surrounding Capitol Hill – such as the Supreme Court – are provided by New Mexico tree growers, the Web site said.

As wild as one may wish to get, there are some guidelines for submitting ornaments. The Web site said the submissions must reflect the theme “A Gift from the Land of Enchantment,” or somehow depict New Mexico’s cultural heritage, agriculture, wildlife, historical or natural resources.
One must use lightweight, durable, water-resistant material that can hang without fading for about three weeks, the site explained, adding reflective, colorful and three-dimensional or double-sided work best.

Entries for the big tree should be 9 to 12 inches in size, have 12- to 15-inch heavy gauged wire attached, and be able to withstand outdoor elements. Those submitting ornaments for the smaller companion trees should make them 5 to 8 inches in size with indoor-appropriate wire attached, the site said.

Class entries will be the responsibility of the teachers, who should have all entries collected, boxed and ready for pickup by a Rotary International member on Oct. 21.

Entry forms should be mailed to Office of the Governor, Attention: Lee Witt, State Capitol Bldg., Suite 400, Santa Fe, NM 87501.

Teachers with class submissions and individuals with ornaments may call the Forest Service’s Lawrence Lujan at 438-7628.

In addition to some of the ideas brought up by artist and ceramicist Mowles, even more — like fish, chili peppers or a bright yellow Zia ornament — can be found on the project Web site at

Although when it comes to Christmas ornaments, Mowles said she has seen the strange, the absurd and the beautiful, she added, “I have never seen an ugly one.”

What: Submit a handmade Christmas ornament to the nation’s Capitol.
When: Deadline is Oct. 21
Why: To adorn the Capitol’s trees – students get a chance to win a holiday trip to Washington, D.C., for the Dec. 8 tree lighting ceremony.
How: Teachers should collect and box up ornaments for pickup by a Rotary International member on Oct. 21.
Teachers with class submissions and individuals with ornaments may call the Forest Service’s Lawrence Lujan at 438-7628.

For more information and an entry form, visit

What makes tree “perfect” for Capitol Hill:

The “perfect” tree should be 60- to 70-feet tall and as straight as possible;

The tree’s breadth near the ground will vary with the species, and it must be appropriately proportionate to the tree’s height;

Similarly, trunk diameter will vary according to species. The trunk should be as free of bends as possible;

Branching must be uniformly full from any vantage point;

Foliage should be a robust shade of green, appropriate to species;

The tree must be free of pests or disease. Treatment may be required prior to harvesting the tree.

The tree will be in full view from every angle in a broad, open area in the center of the West Lawn of the Capitol. It will be admired from within the Capitol as well as from out-of-doors.

Typically, about five feet of trunk is buried in the ground. Height above ground is about 53 feet. Any additional height above the total of 58 feet is cut from the bottom of the tree. Those leftover lower branches are used as “fillers” for any open areas in the tree that result from a few branches broken in shipping.

One or two contingency trees will also be selected.