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The National Christmas Tree Lighting

The National Christmas Tree Lighting

  • Premiered: 
    December 24, 1946
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: local channels
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Special, Annual
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter: Holiday
  • Tags: Christmas

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Plot Synopsis

The tradition began in 1923 when First Lady Grace Coolidge gave permission for the District of Columbia Public Schools to erect a Christmas tree on the Ellipse south of the White House. The organizers named the tree the National Christmas Tree. That Christmas Eve, President Calvin Coolidge walked from the White House to the Ellipse and pushed the button to light the 48-foot Balsam fir decorated with 2500 electric bulbs, as enthusiastic spectators looked on. Since that first ceremony in 1923, the history of the Lighting of the National Christmas Tree has become intertwined with the history of America. From 1942-1944, no tree was lit during World War II, but in 1945 President Truman lit the tree and delivered a Christmas message. 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. In 2007, LED Christmas lights were used on the National Christmas Tree at the request of the White House; GE thus made the National Christmas Tree more energy-efficient than ever before. GE has been designing the National Christmas Tree since 1963, producing and donating the lighting and decorations. The lighting ceremony was first televised on Christmas Eve 1946, but to so few homes that a television and broadcasting committee was formed to expand coverage, with NBC and DuMont both televising the event in 1947.
The 2019 National Christmas Tree Lighting took place on Thursday, December 5 on the Ellipse at President's Park (White House), and the one-hour special was broadcast on Monday, December 9, 2019 on ReelzChannel (8pm ET/5pm PT) and later on Ovation (9pm ET/6pm PT). Hosted by country music star Jessie James Decker, the 97th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony features performances by Decker, winner of THE VOICE Chevel Shepherd, AMERICAN IDOL finalist Colton Dixon, The United States Air Force's premier rock band Max Impact, THE VOICE finalist Spensha Baker, the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, the West Tennessee Youth Chorus, and "The President's Own" United States Marine Band.

In October 2019, the National Park Service planted a new National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in President's Park. The new tree is a 30-foot Colorado blue spruce from Palmyra, Pennsylvania, and is lit for the first time during the 2019 ceremony. Thanks to a partnership with the National Park Foundation, GE Lighting is celebrating its 57th year of decorating the National Christmas Tree. In addition, 56 smaller trees surrounding the National Christmas Tree feature one-of-a-kind ornaments, representing every U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia.



  • The Ellipse at President's Park - Washington DC USA