California Arts Council

State of California

California youth group's ornaments decorate national Christmas tree in Washington, DC
Students at Language Academy of Sacramento created decorations under guidance of artist Florentina Favela

Published: 12-24-2010

Each year since 1978, a live tree in Washington, DC is lit on the mall and surrounded by 56 cut trees representing the 56 states, territories and the District of Columbia. This year the National Parks Service and the White House specifically asked that the state trees be decorated by ornaments from arts youth groups across the country and globe. California's decorations were created by students at the Language Academy of Sacramento, under the guidance of teaching artist Florentina Favela.

Twenty-five of the ornaments will be hung from the state or territorial tree as part of the National Christmas Tree display on the Ellipse. One of the ornaments will decorate the White House Visitor Center Christmas tree which showcases each state/territory ornament.

"We are delighted to have Florentina Favela and the Language Academy of Sacramento participating in this year's National Christmas tree display," said Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks, in a press release. "This event is a wonderful example of how our national parks connect us as a nation."

Favela and the Language Academy of Sacramento were chosen to partake in the project because of the artist's and the school's dedication to improving California through their work and the arts. The mission of the Language Academy of Sacramento is to prepare kindergarten through eighth-grade students, particularly English learners and those from historically underserved populations, to excel academically in Spanish and English; to develop a lifelong love of learning; and to become bilingual, bi-literate, and multi-culturally competent leaders.

Favela was the apprentice of the late Master Artist, Ricardo Favela--her father and a co-founder of the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF), an internationally recognized artist collective. Her artistic strength is ceramics and other multimedia art forms. She has exhibited work consistently over the past ten years and collectively with the RCAF. Favela teaches ceramics and traditional folk arts regularly with the Language Academy, Very Special Arts, the Washington Neighborhood Center and other local Sacramento K-6 schools.

The ornaments themselves are paper mache, created from newspaper, card stock, ping pong balls, and starch, in a star form inside a globe. Favela said that the children were extremely excited about the project, and the inspiration for the star came from her discussion with the children (K-3) and their ideas about the project. The children said that when they think of Christmas they always think of the star on top of the Christmas tree.

"In the United States, California is a star," Favela said the children told her. They also noted certain California landmarks and their impact on the landscape, specifically an engineering feat located in the San Francisco Bay Area. "The Golden Gate Bridge is the star of the state and the star of the nation," Favela said the children told her.

About the National Christmas Tree Lighting
As one of our country's oldest holiday traditions, the National Christmas Tree Lighting began on Christmas Eve in 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit a Christmas tree in front of 3,000 spectators on the Ellipse. Since 1923, each succeeding President has carried on the tradition of what now has become a month-long event presented by the National Park Foundation and National Park Service. In addition to the National Christmas Tree display, the Ellipse hosts a variety of family-oriented holiday attractions, such as the Santa's Workshop, nightly holiday performances, a Yule log, nativity scene, and model train display. See for more information.

About the National Park Service
The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System and its 393 National Park sites for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The National Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world. For more information, visit

return to from the vault