It’s the day before Christmas. Stockings are hung; fairy-lights are strung; turkeys are brined; children are primed; everything is ready to go. Well, almost everything.
Today marks the third day of a partial US government shutdown over ongoing disagreements about funding for US president Donald Trump’s border wall. Many federal services have been suspended—among them the National Christmas Tree. The tree’s lights are off, and on Dec. 23 the National Park Service posted a notice reading: “During the federal government shutdown, the White House Visitor Center and National Christmas Tree site will be closed.”
Located south of the White House on the Ellipse, the tree is a live blue spruce, covered in twinkling lights. Every year, the tree is ceremoniously lit by the president in early December. Tickets to the event, which are administered via a lottery, vanish in a matter of hours.
But this Christmas season has been a tough one for the tree. Last week, a man in “emotional distress” tried to climb it, and now the government shutdown means the tree could remain closed through the end of its gig on Jan. 1.
The National Christmas Tree is just one festive item in a long list of suspended US services. Airports, prisons, schools, and libraries will stay open, but federal parks are shuttered. Roughly 800,000 government employees are also impacted; some must work unpaid, while others go on furlough. It’s a dark way to send off the year—for tree and country alike.