The tree lighting ceremony begins each year’s 3-week Pageant. Country music's JOHN CONLEE along with a military band adds to the celebratory evening in which the President brings a message of peace to the nation and the world.The culmination of the evening is the illumination of the National Christmas Tree.President George W. Bush will continue the tradition this year, pushing the switch for the sixth time in his Presidency. And every President who follows him will be reminded of the great heritage surrounding this event by the switch box they hold, a box handcrafted in the mid 1930s and dated “1923” to mark the year President Coolidge first lit the tree on behalf of “all Americans.” For 83 years, the American tradition of lighting a national Christmas Tree has continued, interrupted only briefly in its history during moments of great national travail.
In December 1923, the first National Christmas Tree was placed on the Ellipse south of the White House. The tree was a 48-foot Balsam fir from Vermont. At 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, President Calvin Coolidge walked from the White House to the Ellipse to light the tree from his native state. The tree was decorated with 2500 electric bulbs in red, white and green. Music for this first lighting ceremony was provided by a local choir and the U.S. Marine Band.