Somewhere in the middle of Interstate 17 between Flagstaff and Phoenix, AZ, the mystery of Christmas lives on in a juniper tree that looks more like a rotund tumbleweed than a traditional holiday decoration. For about three decades, unknown “elves” have secretly decorated the tree, completely undetected. No one, not even the sharpest of investigative journalists, has been able to figure out who does it.

“It’s part of the holiday,” said Glenn Brown, fire chief in Mayer, AZ. “You drive by one day and it’s not decorated, and then the next day it is.”

Even though the ADOT doesn’t condone decorative displays in medians, they haven’t done much to stop the ritual. “I think we treat this a little bit as a special case,” said Greg Gentsch, an ADOT district engineer.

But, in August, the tradition of the “Mystery Christmas Tree” almost came to an end. The tree was nearly burnt out of existence by a wildfire along the highway. Flames got so close that the trunk and some lower branches were burned, but that was it. The tree survived with only minor damage.

Locals initially believed first responders were responsible for saving the tree, but, according to Brown, “It was a higher power than us. We did nothing.”

So, now the “Miracle Christmas Tree” lives on to serve its Christmas duty, although, as of Monday, no secret “elves” had yet trimmed it in its holiday best.

[USA Today]