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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.
Hosted by LL Cool J, the 2021 NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING premiered on Sunday, December 5, 2021 at 8:30-9:30pm ET/8-9pm PT on CBS. Televised for the first time on CBS, this beloved American tradition, presented by the National Park Service (NPS) and National Park Foundation (NPF), features a star-studded lineup of musical performances by Billy Porter, Chris Stapleton, H.E.R., Juanes, Keb' Mo', Kristin Chenoweth, Maren Morris and Patti LaBelle singing holiday favorites. In addition to the official lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in President's Park in Washington, D.C., the event also features performances by the U.S. Army Band Downrange and the Howard Gospel Choir. The NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING ceremony took place on Thursday, December 2.

Students from 58 schools across the nation and abroad have designed one-of-a-kind ornaments for the 2021 National Christmas Tree display on the Ellipse in President's Park. These unique ornaments will adorn 58 smaller trees surrounding the National Christmas Tree. The trees represent each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia as part of the America Celebrates ornament display. Schools managed by the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Education and the Department of Defense Education Activity will also participate in the display for the first time this year.

Since 1973, the National Christmas Tree has been a living tree which can be viewed year-round in President's Park -- one of America's 423 national parks! Ahead of the holiday season, the NPS planted a new National Christmas Tree. The new tree is a 27-foot white fir (Abies Concolor) from Middleburg, PA.



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