Holiday Helpers

Lisa Britton / For The Baker City HeraldRachael Nickens works on a paper lantern that will adorn the Christmas tree at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., this year.

One hole punch at a time, silvery lanterns are in the making at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center to adorn the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in December.

This year, the tree that will grace the nation’s capital city is coming from the Willamette National Forest in Western Oregon.

That tree will be displayed on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., with a public tree-lighting ceremony in early December.

In addition to the large tree, the Sweet Home Ranger District, east of Albany, will send 70 smaller trees to Washington, D.C.

To celebrate, entities across the state are aiming to create 10,000 ornaments to decorate the tree this Christmas.

The Oregon Trail Interpretive Center east of Baker City has hosted several workshops where volunteers create paper lanterns in the style of the punched tin lanterns of Oregon Trail days.

“Our goal is to make 175 altogether,” said Rachael Nickens, park ranger.

This number commemorates the 175th anniversary of the Oregon Trail emigration, which started in 1843.

The next session to make ornaments is at noon Friday, Sept. 14, during the center’s Genealogy Day events.

Rather than the sharp tin of real lanterns, Nickens provides visitors with silver metallic cardstock. She has several patterns to choose from, which are taped on top of the shiny paper.

Using a darning needle and block of wood (or small hammer), it’s simply a matter of punching holes along the pattern.

For smaller helpers, she can provide thinner paper to punch.

“Little kids can use a push pin,” Nickens said. “The youngest has been 4.”

Once finished, she rolls the paper into a cylinder, staples it together and affixes a handle.

“I’ve had so many nice conversations sitting here, tapping away, talking to visitors,” she said.

The ornaments will be sent to Washington, D.C., in October.

The theme for the Capitol Christmas Tree is “Find Your Trail!” to recognize two 2018 anniversaries: the 50th of the National Trail System Act and the 175th of the Oregon Trail.

According to the website, in November the Christmas Tree will travel east from Oregon on the reverse path of the Oregon Trail. The schedule and special events will be announced soon.

See more in the Sept. 12, 2018, issue of the Baker City Herald.

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