According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is set to light the city's holiday tree today at the 98th annual tree lighting ceremony downtown in Daley Plaza. The mayor, who is actually Jewish, has continued to refer to the 55-foot Colorado spruce as a "holiday tree" instead of a "Christmas tree."
This event will mark the first time that Mayor Emanuel has lit the tree, an honor given to Chicago's mayor every holiday season. In addition to the tree, which comes from suburban Western Springs, Daley plaza will also feature other displays, including a Santa house and a Menorah. Here are some facts about past tree lighting ceremonies and the process of selecting Chicago's most famous tree:
* The search for the perfect tree starts well before the holiday season and this year it began in early September, according to the Mayor's Office.
* The city allows people to submit entries for the search and the top three finalists are voted on by Chicagoans.
* The tree must meet certain criteria: they must be 55 feet or taller and spruce and fir trees are preferred while pine trees are ineligible.
* An article from the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the winner, an 83-year-old and 55-foot tall Colorado Spruce, was chosen on Oct. 26.
* In fact, the towering tree wasn't professionally grown and actually comes from the Spangler family's front lawn in Western Springs.
* 2009 marked the first time since 1995 that Chicago used a single tree in Daley Plaza, noted Chicago Now.
* Prior to this, the city stacked multiple trees, exactly 113 of them, that eventually reached 90 feet in height but the city opted out of this to be more economically and environmentally-friendly.
* Last year a McHenry family won the contest with their 70-foot blue spruce, according to the Huffington Post.
* Another article from the Chicago Tribune reported that the cost prior to allowing people to donate and vote on the official tree were extremely high and 2008's budget was close to $300,000.
* The stacked trees also took several weeks to build but by selecting a single tree it has cut the city's costs in half and only takes a few days to set up and decorate.
* Chicago has also eliminated the use of ornaments due to their weight and instead uses energy-efficient and multi-colored LED lights, in which this year's tree in Daley Plaza will be covered with 5,800 of them, as well as a five-point star on top.
Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. As a college student from the Chicago suburbs pursuing two science degrees, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.