Holidays in the ‘Burgh

Drumroll, please: Pittsburgh has chosen its Christmas tree!

This 58-footer will adorn the City-County Building.

It's beginning to look a lot like...

It's beginning to look a lot like...

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It’s Christmastime, and for those of you aggrieved by that fact — and the fact that the frontend of the season now somehow precedes Halloween — this article may only make matters worse. We apologize in advance for all the eggnog you’ll be forced to drink. We respect your struggle.

For everyone else: It’s Christmastime!!!!!!! And we have big Christmas-y news!!

Pittsburgh has chosen the donated tree that will adorn the City-County Building’s portico for the next few months, inspiring feelings of kinship and winter warmth in passersby and scoffs from the holiday haters among us.

But then again, this isn’t really for the haters, is it? (It’s been a long year, we’ve been good, and we think we’ve earned the right to indulge a bit. Okay?) So we’ll proceed.

This year’s official Pittsburgh Christmas tree hails from the edge of the city limits or, more specifically, a rental property belonging to donor John Zitelli of Zitelli Properties at 814 South Braddock Ave. in Regent Square, according to City Forester Lisa Ceoffe.

It’s 58 feet tall and a thing of beauty, she added. And it should be. Ceoffe’s been chasing it for the last year like a landlocked Captain Ahab.

You see, for most of us Christmas is only a part-time pursuit. Not for Ceoffe. For her it’s a constant. In the dog days of August. In the renewal of spring. Ceoffe is always hunting.

“We are always on the lookout for evergreens,” she said. “Throughout the year we’re knocking on doors and leaving cards where we see a tree we think would be good.”

She encountered the Zitelli tree in this way last year, while in the area scouting a crop of other potential candidates for the city’s Christmas display. Ceoffe said she reached out to Zitelli, who wasn’t ready to have the tree removed. She waited and, when this year’s crop of candidates failed to move her in the same way, she reached out to him again.

“It took a little convincing,” she said of Zitelli. “But it didn’t seem like we had anything that compared to that tree, and so we reached out to him again and tried to convince him that it would be a great way for the tree to go out and to be a part of our holiday season.”

Zitelli ultimately agreed, and the tree will now be cut down and removed from his property in the wee morning hours of Saturday. It will be transported by a flatbed truck Downtown, where a team of workers will hoist it into place and teams of decorators will descend on it like a pack of caffeinated elves. This year’s lighting ceremony will take place at 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 17, kicking off Light Up Night, Ceoffe said.

Zitelli, a 70-year-old from Swisshelm Park, plans to be there with his wife Janet and their grandkids.

On Monday, he explained his decision to donate the tree this year: “Hey, my life has changed. I’m getting older. And this is my city. I was born and raised here and will end up dying here […] and if it’s something I can do for my city — they’ve done an awful lot for me and so giving it back is well worth it.”

You can read more about the city’s Christmas tree procurement process here. We also have some tips for recycling your Christmas tree, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We want this feeling to last.

Something tells us that you do, too. Ceoffe said the 30-plus inquiries received this year from city residents with trees they hoped to donate to the City-County Building’s display was “way more than usual.”

“We usually get between 5 and 10,” she added.

Now that could be a coincidence. It could also mean that Pittsburgh is hungrier than normal for the emotional comfort of the holiday season.

Asked if he felt that way, Zitelli said, “Yes sir, I do. Very much so.”

Want some more? Explore other Holidays in the ‘Burgh stories.