National Christmas Tree 2016 (Lighting, Tickets & More)

A Washington, DC Christmas Tradition

National Christmas Tree
••• National Christmas Tree. Alex Wong/Getty Images

Since 1923, the United States has held a tradition of lighting a National Christmas Tree in Washington, DC each holiday season. 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. 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.

Read about the history of the National Christmas Tree.

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, DC 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.

See a Photo Gallery of the National Christmas Tree

National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

Date: Thursday, December 1, 2016, 4:30 p.m. The event is held rain or shine.

Tickets: Free tickets are distributed each year through an online lottery. The lottery is now closed.  The ceremony will be broadcast on the Hallmark Channel on December 5 at 7 p.m. 

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

Academy Award-winner Reese Witherspoon will host this year's event.

2016 Entertainment Lineup

  • Chance the Rapper
  • Kelly Clarkson
  • James Taylor
  • Yolanda Adams
  • The Lumineers
  • Garth Brooks
  • Trisha Yearwood

Visit the National Christmas Tree Throughout the Holiday Season

The National Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace will be open to January 1, 2017 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. 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, will be held nightly throughout the holiday season. Performances will generally start at 5 p.m. and end by 8:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, performances run from 1-8:30 p.m.

Location: The Ellipse near The White House
The closest Metro stations to the White House are Federal Triangle, Metro Center and McPherson Square. Parking is very limited in this area, so public transportation is recommended. See a map of the White House and the Ellipse

Parking Near the National Christmas Tree

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. The closest stops are Metro Center, Federal Triangle, and McPherson Square. Read more about parking near the National Mall

See also, Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremonies in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia

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