News & Politics

UPDATE: The Lighting of the National Christmas Tree Means Likely Rush Hour Gridlock for Friday Evening

What to know if you plan to watch live or at home.

The National Christmas Tree lighting takes place on Friday. Photograph via Flickr user Tim Evanson.

On Friday evening President Obama and his family will preside over the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.  The ceremony begins at 4:30 on the Ellipse, regardless of the weather. Due to scheduled road closures related to the event it is expected that, as in past years, the evening rush hour will be tough at best. Expect gridlock in the downtown area. 

For those planning to attend the ceremony or watch online or on television, a long list of entertainers will perform, including Joshua Bell, Jane Lynch, Renée Fleming, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Train, and Arturo Sandoval. Tickets were made available in an online lottery that is now closed; the ceremony will stream live on the website. This year the tree also has its own Twitter account.

After the lighting ceremony, the tree and the Pageant of Peace—which includes nightly concerts—are open to the public daily from 10 to 10 through New Year’s Day. Typically the President and First Lady also begin hosting a heavy schedule of official holiday receptions at the White House. Those who regularly receive invitations include members of Congress, the diplomatic corps, and the media, as well as friends and family of White House staff.

One note about the National Christmas tree lighting: While it’s a beloved holiday tradition, it’s also traditionally a nightmare of rush-hour gridlock. Drivers, you’ve been warned.

This post has been updated from a previous version.