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National Christmas Tree Lighting

Winter is fast approaching and so is the season of Christmas. During this time of year, many people celebrate traditions with their families and communities. Activities include holiday parades, visiting Santa at the mall, decorating houses, and more. Since 1923, an important American tradition has been the annual¬†National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony¬†where the President of the United States lights the “National Christmas Tree.” This year, the ceremony takes place Dec. 3, 2015, in front of the White House at the Ellipse at President’s Park.

National Christmas Tree Washington DC

Aerial of the U.S. National Christmas tree on the northern end of the Ellipse in the President’s Park in Washington, D.C., in December 2011.
(Credit: Public domain via National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior)

Over the years, various trees have been used for the ceremony. The first decorated trees were cut trees and some were 23 feet tall! In 1978, a living tree was successfully planted in the Ellipse and was 30 feet tall. Since 2010, a few replacement trees have been planted in the same location.

Tickets for the actual day of the lighting ceremony are free and distributed through a lottery system. There are about 3,000 seats plus 14,000 standing spots for visitors. But the tree can be visited throughout the whole month of December.

To read more about this event, visit the official Tree Lighting website, the National Park Foundation, and the National Park Service websites.

Educators can also visit ProQuest SIRS Discoverer for student resources on Christmas and holiday traditions. Here are some examples of searches to get you started:

Christmas trees
Christmas, History
Christmas