The lottery begins October 16.
It’s not the holiday season in Washington, DC until the annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the White House. And, starting tomorrow, tickets will officially be up for grabs.
The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation have announced that the lottery for tickets to the tree lighting ceremony will open on Friday, October 16 at 10 a.m. EDT and run until Monday, October 19 at 10 a.m. EDT. The tickets—which are completely free—will get you onto the White House Ellipse on December 3 to watch President Obama and his family switch on the lights and kick off the holidays.
Having started in 1923 under President Calvin Coolidge, this is the 93rd year of the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Though details for this year have not yet been revealed, past ceremonies have featured a slew of celebrity hosts and entertainers like Tom Hanks, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, and Neil Patrick Harris. Michelle Obama traditionally reads ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to the audience and, naturally, Santa Claus makes an appearance as well.
Beyond the ceremony itself, the National Christmas Tree—which has been adorned with more environmentally friendly LED lights since 2007—is surrounded by smaller trees honoring all 56 U.S. states, territories, and the District of Columbia. Each tree on this Pathway of Peace bears ornaments designed by local artists honoring their homes. There’s also a nightly music program during the three weeks following the tree lighting ceremony.
Enter the ticket lottery online at thenationaltree.org or by phone at 877-444-6777 (TDD 877-833-6777). Results will be available on November 5, and winners will be notified by email. Competition is always tight, but there’s a silver lining for anyone who doesn’t manage to score any tickets: the ceremony is always screened both online and on PBS for those who can’t make it to the Ellipse in person.