The National Christmas Tree in Washington DC

November 28, 2011 by

Festivals & Events, North America

The National Christmas Tree at the White House

In 1923, the First Lady Grace Coolidge, wife of President Calvin Coolidge, would start the tradition of the lighting the National Christmas Tree at the White House in Washington DC. On Christmas Eve of 1923, the first tree was a 48 ft. Balsam Fir from Coolidge’s native state of Vermont, lit on the south side of the White House area called the Ellipse. Today the tree is a 26 ft. evergreen from New Jersey that replaces the 40 ft. Colorado blue spruce from York, PA that blew down last February planted on the Ellipse in 1978. Not to be confused with the Capitol Christmas Tree, which is cut down from a different National Forest each year and brought to Washington with decorations from its home state, the National Christmas Tree grows in the Ellipse year-round and is a permanent fixture in Washington.

The National Christmas Tree is no longer lit on Christmas Eve, but on December 1 at 5:00 pm by the President and his family with military bands playing. The Christmas Tree is not the only decoration; we now have a Yule log, a large scale model train, and a Santa’s workshop that stay on the Ellipse until January 1 to enjoy throughout the Christmas season. Other favorite holiday celebrations and exhibits in DC are:

Union Station Norwegian Model Train Display thru Jan. 1

Holiday Magic @ the United States Botanical Gardens thru Jan. 1

National Cathedral Handel’s Messiah by combined choirs Dec. 2, 3, 4

JFK Performing Arts Center Nutcracker by NSO Dec. 15-18

 A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre thru Dec. 31

If that is not enough then you can lace up your skates or rent ones and try your skills of ice skating on the rink at the National Sculpture Gardens across from the National Archives.

-Tim Kelly

Tim Kelly is an experienced Viator guide and offers tours all throughout Washington DC. Learn more about Washington DC Expert Tim.

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