2023 Capitol Tree Lighting

2019 Capitol Christmas Tree Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom host the 92nd Annual California State Capitol Tree Lighting in a pre-recorded, virtual ceremony. Viewing: The event will be streamed on the California Governor’s Office YouTubeTwitter and Facebook accounts on December 6, 2023 at 6pm.

The program includes the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Wilton Rancheria, and representatives of the Department of Developmental Services’ regional centers.

Special guest Harley Goodpasture (5 yrs. old), the first Native American child to assist with the ceremony, will help the Governor and First Partner light the State Capitol tree. This marks the 40th year a child from a regional center has helped light the state tree. As part of this tradition, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities from all over California created ornaments that will adorn this year’s majestic 60-foot red fir tree.  This long-standing tradition was expanded this year to include 21 trees representing each regional center.

Harley’s first word was “love,” and her appreciation of outdoor activities, singing, dancing, and learning reflects her vibrant spirit. Harley’s mother is a member of the Susanville Indian Rancheria in Northern California and Harley, her father and siblings are members of the Pala Band of Mission Indians in Southern California. Selected by the California DDS, Harley receives services from the Inland Regional Center and her participation represents the over 400,000 Californians with intellectual and developmental disabilities who receive services from the state’s 21 nonprofit regional centers.

Her parents, Season and James Goodpasture, founded Acorns to Oak Trees, the first regional center vendored service on tribal land, located in San Diego Regional Center’s catchment area.

History of the California State Capitol Tree Lighting Ceremony

For over 90 years, the Governor’s Tree lighting has evolved from a small office celebration into California’s statewide commemoration kicking off the holiday season. The first use of the California State Capitol occurred during a holiday celebration in December of 1869. The holiday tree lighting ceremony began in 1931 with Governor James Rolph. He rearranged his main office located at that time in the west wing of the Capitol to accommodate a large, decorated tree central to a gift exchange among staff. This informal tradition continued with the next 6 governors. In 1951, the Governor’s office moved to the East Annex as did the holiday tree lighting ceremony.

Hand-Crafted Ornaments and Tradition of Tree Lighters & DDS

In 1983, California Governor Deukmejian, the Department of General Services, and the Department of Developmental Services updated the ceremony with a large tree placed on the west steps and decorated the tree with ornaments hand made by children and adults with developmental disabilities. At this time, Governor Deukmejian started the tradition of inviting a child with developmental disabilities who receives services from one of California’s 21 nonprofit regional centers, to hang an ornament on the Capitol tree and “hit the switch” to light the tree and help kick off the holiday season for all Californians.

Creating ornaments for the tree is a project that is enjoyed by many individuals with developmental disabilities throughout the state. Each year, there are new themes, and people’s creativity never ends! The ornaments must be constructed of materials that will withstand wind and rain. The tree is also decorated with approximately 14,000 ultra-low wattage LED lights.


Last modified: April 15, 2024