Did You Know?: Purdue Memorial Union's Christmas tree

December 3, 2014  

Union Christmas tree

This photo, taken on Dec. 3, 2013, shows the Christmas tree in the Union and President Mitch Daniels, who performed the tree-lighting ceremony that day. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons)
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The tree that will brighten up the holiday season this year in Purdue Memorial Union represents a tradition that's at least 80 years old.

A Christmas tree has added to the Union's festive air since the 1930s, says Margie Jones, program director for PMU.

In those days, the trees were brought from out of state; in the 1950s, for instance, the trees were purchased and shipped from Wisconsin via flatbed rail car. In the 1960s, the Union's Christmas trees were harvested from Northern Indiana and shipped into Purdue via truck. In the early 1970s, the trees were bought from local nurseries.

In 1975, a local resident asked to donate a tree from their property for use as the Union's Christmas tree. Purdue officials gladly accepted the donation, and ever since, the trees in the Union have come from a philanthropic resident, Jones says.

This year, the tree's donor is Janet Armstrong, a Lafayette resident and Purdue alumna. The tree is a blue spruce that was planted on Armstrong's property in 1990. It is more than 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide at the bottom of its branches.

The tree will arrive in the Union's Great Hall around 12:30 p.m. on Monday (Dec. 8). That evening, members of the Purdue Student Union Board will decorate it with ornaments that were made by members of other student organizations.

The official tree-lighting ceremony, led by President Mitch Daniels, will take place at 11 a.m. on Tuesday (Dec. 9). A Guess the Lights contest will take place Dec. 9-21. The top three people who come closest to guessing the correct number of lights on the tree will receive prizes from local businesses.

The last day to see the tree fully decorated is Dec. 21, as the tree will be taken down on Dec. 22.

The Union's Christmas tree annually is considered one of the largest indoor Christmas trees in Indiana, and while it is displayed, it is meticulously cared for, Jones says. The tree this year will be watered with five gallons of water three times per day.

The tree will be tested daily for compliance with the State of Indiana's fire code. If it does not meet the requirements, the tree will be removed from the building. 

Writer: Amanda Hamon Kunz, 49-61325, ahamon@purdue.edu 

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