Christmas Tree Lady’s last fling
December 5, 2006
If you’ve lived here awhile, or visited Victorian Christmas in Nevada City with your children, you’ve probably seen the Christmas Tree Lady.
She’s hard to miss, walking down Broad Street decked out as a giant fringed conifer, handing out candy, dog biscuits and Christmas cards to the young, the young-at-heart and four-legged friends.
What most of you may not know is who she really is, how she came to be the Christmas Tree Lady and that tonight – at Victorian Christmas – she will pass out her last candy cane after 25 years.
Diane Bishop’s bright blue eyes light up when she tells of her transformation into the Christmas Tree Lady, a journey that began in 1966 in Maryland.
“Sunny O’Neil, a consultant for the Smithsonian (Institute) on the Victorian Era, wrote an article in The Washington Post on the Victorian tradition of dressing up as Christmas Trees at parties,” Bishop said. “They printed the pattern, and I made the costume with help from my mother.”
While living near the nation’s capitol, Bishop would dress up in the outfit and walk around the National Christmas Tree and shopping centers passing out candy canes.
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“I didn’t get much attention,” Bishop remembered.
When she moved to Nevada County in the early 1980s, she called the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and offered her services as a walking Christmas Tree.
“They weren’t interested. They thought I was a nut,” Bishop said.
Then her mother got involved and told her, “Diane, anyone can go to Victorian Christmas and they can wear whatever they want. Just go.”
After about four years of her stealth tree persona, the chamber tracked her down and she began to be listed in the official publications as the Christmas Tree Lady.
Bishop, now 69, has a lot of memories from Victorian Christmases past. Her favorite is the family from Sacramento that came for the second time to the Nevada City celebration. “The second year, the mother said they didn’t care about seeing Santa. The kids wanted to see the Christmas Tree Lady.”
Cathy Whittlesey, executive director of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce, said Bishop has been a popular attraction for many, many years.
“People will call the chamber and ask where the Christmas Tree Lady is going to be. They don’t want to miss her,” Whittlesey said. “Kids just love her.”
Bishop isn’t retiring her conifer costume. She’ll be moving it to Ellicott City, Md., near one of her adult children.
“I hear they have a Christmas Midnight Madness celebration there,” Bishop said.
She’ll don her costume there and bring her special magic to another generation of children.
To contact Readership Editor Dixie Redfearn, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4238.