National Christmas Tree Lighting

A Washington, D.C. Holiday Tradition

2017 National Christmas Tree
Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images

Since 1923, the United States has held a tradition of lighting a National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC each holiday season. In 1954, a "Pathway of Peace," 56 smaller, decorated trees representing all 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia were planted surrounding the National Christmas Tree. In 1978, a live 40-foot Colorado blue spruce was transplanted from York, Pennsylvania to its present site on the Ellipse, the grassy area south of the White House.

Each year sponsoring organizations from each state provide ornaments that are encased in a protective plastic globe to shield it from the weather. The lighting of the National Christmas Tree is the beginning of a three week Washington, D.C. Christmas tradition. The decorations are unique each year and visitors from around the world come to check out the displays and live performances throughout the holiday season.

The National Tree Lighting is just one of many Christmas tree lightings that take place in the Washington, DC area.

National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

The National Christmas Tree Lighting is typically held near the end of November. The date for 2018 was Wednesday, November 28. The event is held rain or shine.

Free tickets are distributed each year through an online lottery leading up to the event.

During the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, nationally known entertainers and a military band perform, while the President brings a message of peace to the nation and the world.

Entertainment and Performers

In addition to a message by the President, each year there are a variety of music artists and other performers. Past appearances include Kelly Clarkson, Chance the Rapper, Marc Anthony, Wynona, the Beach Boys, and many more.

Visit the National Christmas Tree Throughout the Holiday Season

The National Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace are normally open to visitors from the lighting ceremony until January 1. Seasonal displays include a Yule log, a large-scale model train, and a Christmas manger. Tickets are only required for the lighting ceremony. Musical performances by volunteer choirs, bands, and dancers are held nightly throughout the holiday season. Performances generally start at 5 p.m. and end by 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday performances run from 1 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

How to Arrive

The National Tree is located at the Ellipse near The White House. The closest Metro stations to the White House are Federal Triangle, Metro Center, and McPherson Square.

Parking is extremely limited near the National Christmas Tree. Limited parking is available along Constitution Avenue between 15th and 17th Streets after 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and all day on weekends. The best way to get to the area is by metro.

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