The United States 'National Christmas Tree' at the White House will be lit for the holidays by President Barack Obama on December 3 at 5 pm. This year, for the first time, a lottery system will offer the public a chance to win free tickets to view the illumination ceremony.
From November 4 at 12:01 am EST until November 6 at 11:59 pm EST, an online lottery (www.thenationaltree.org) will register applicants for 2,800 seats, plus an additional 7,000 standing spaces made available this year.
This 86th annual event begins a series of holiday festivities in Washington DC during December called the 'Pageant of Peace.' Smaller trees representing the US states are decorated along a Pathway to Peace leading to the National Christmas Tree, open to the public in the Ellipse of the White House Park.
In 1973 a 'living tree' was planted for the annual ceremony instead of cutting down a tree. The 30-foot Colorado blue spruce is decorated with non-energy-consuming garlands and lightweight balls to help preserve the tree.
The National Christmas Tree is lit from dusk until 11 pm through January 1, 2010. Musical performances by choirs happen nightly from 6-8:30 pm, and weekend performances are scheduled 4-8:30 pm. Also for the first time, 2009 display includes a Santa's Workshop, open for children to visit Santa.
The televised event is scheduled the day after the other traditional lighting ceremony for Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York, which is lit on December 2.