A Christmas Tree for Ivan

Ivan and his Christmas tree

Throughout his time in Western Washington, Ivan the Gorilla® was adored by the area’s youth, especially during the Christmas season.

The children of Madison Elementary in Olympia, WA decided to show their appreciation to Ivan’s friendship in the winter of 1985. While spending time in the bedroom of his 1600 square foot compound, the children & adults of Madison Elementary gathered for a special event, an Ivan Christmas.

A Christmas Tree for Ivan

The children created custom paper ornaments, candy cane treats & popcorn garland to adorn Ivan’s Christmas tree, with a banana or two hiding among the decorations. Carefully wrapped presents addressed to Ivan embellished the base of his tree, quietly waiting for their Ivan moment.

The Moment

As always, the children anxiously waited on the other side of the glass for Ivan’s arrival. Knowing something afoot, Ivan sauntered into his main compound. Beholding the colorful lines of paper garland that draped festively about and the Christmas tree dedicated to him. After greeting the familiar audience with his signature playfulness. His attention quickly turned to the decorated tree, among the first, the popcorn garland, is this edible? One by one the moment for each present came to reveal the new treasures inside. A new soccer ball, a pair of 80’s fashion acid wash Jeans, tennis shoes, a carton of milk and a favorite stuffed animal, all new playthings for him to enjoy and perhaps destroy.

Heart of a Community

These moments reflected the true heart of a community, coming together during this winter season for one goal, Ivan. Scores of children now grown will always reflect upon their own Ivan moments & carry with them his many lessons. As he once did long ago, he continues to change & shape our world without ever saying a word.


Share your memories of Ivan

Leave a Comment