December 19, 1934 was the first time the Capitol lights were used to show a design. There was also a star immediately above it, which was built by capitol workmen. It was 16 feet in diameter at the inner circle and contained 120 electric lights. Some of the lights and wiring was loaned by the local electric company because there was no appropriation to buy them. (Source: The Bismarck Tribune, Thursday, December 20, 1934).
History of the Christmas tree window lighting began in the mid 1940s using paper shades to color the north and south window openings. Plastic shades were purchased in the late 1950s and the current colored plastic shades were purchased in 1993. There are a total of 88 shades used to get the Christmas tree on both the north and south side of the building. Each side North and the South has 20 red and 24 green shades to create the tree.
The New Year numbers tradition started in the mid 1970s with lighting the numbers on the north and south sides of the building. Then in the late 1980s the windows on the east and west sides were illuminated to highlight the New Year.
The south side Capitol windows are also lit on the 4th of July.
On August 16, 2014 the Capitol window reflected North Dakota's125th year of statehood.