Every winter when I was little, my family and I would bundle up in warm clothes and pile into our raggedy blue station wagon for a trip to Washington, DC, to see the National Christmas Tree.
It was one of the annual family traditions that we looked forward to and enjoyed together. Unfortunately, that tradition fell by the wayside as we all got older, but I still have fond memories of those times.
If it weren’t for a sitting president almost 95 years ago, our family tradition may never have begun.
= HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE =
In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge conducted the first National Christmas Tree lighting in Washington, DC on The Ellipse near the White House.
With the exception of 1942 – 1944 (during WWII), the tree lighting ceremony has taken place each year through peace and war.
Flash forward all these years later and this annual event is still a tradition that many people look forward to – locals and visitors alike.
Over the years, the annual celebration expended and evolved. According to NationalTree.Org, the National Christmas Tree official website:
“In 1954 the Washington Board of Trade and the Washington Citizen’s Committee conceived of a wider celebration called the “Christmas Pageant of Peace” in which the tree lighting event expanded to three weeks. A “Pathway of Peace” was composed of smaller trees representing all the states, territories and the District of Columbia. The 1954 opening ceremony was held December 17, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower turned the switch. The longer event, with local nightly entertainment, proved very popular and continues to the present.”
= THE DECORATIONS =
Since 1923, the National Christmas Tree has been decorated with lights. However, in 2007 the White House requested that the National Tree be lit by LED lights, making the tree more energy efficient. In 2008, the lights adorning the tree were almost solely LEDs lights.
The 56 smaller trees representing the states, territories, and Washington, DC, are decorated with hand-made ornaments donated by sponsors from each state. Each ornament’s decor is representative of the state and is protected from the elements by a round plastic case.
= PLAN YOUR VISIT =
Visiting the National Christmas Tree can be a fun tradition…IF you have all the information you need to make it as easy and stress-free as possible.
The tree itself is available for viewing all day; however, it is only lit from 4:30pm .