Trumps’ Christmas Tree Lighting Wows Crowd, Fills Hearts

Printed from:

Wednesday night warm hearts, sparkling eyes, and merry spirits filled the capital’s crisp air as President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump welcomed dignitaries, family members, friends, and invited guests to witness National Christmas Tree Lighting ~ 2018. The festive event was held on the Ellipse, a 52-acre park situated on the south side of the White House. Formerly known as “The President’s Park,” the Ellipse is one of 59 national parks managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, currently under the direction of Secretary Ryan Zinke.  

Serving as the park’s centerpiece for this season of celebrations, an elevated bandstand and a stage decorated like a gift-boxed Broadway show were constructed adjacent to a permanently planted Colorado blue spruce. That tree, like its predecessors, is wrapped annually in twinkling lights and colorful ribbons. Surrounding the towering tree, smaller trees stand decorated with ornaments created by hundreds of young artists from all 50 states. Adding to the wonder, volunteers of the The National Christmas Tree Railroad constructed train villages to surround  the mini-forest’s cluster of fragrant evergreens. 

In front of these elaborate displays folding chairs stood like sentinels in the performance area. Ticketed guests of all ages bundled into park seating where fashion sensibilities called for cozy coats, fluffy hats, and gloves galore. While they were waiting for the president’s arrival, wicked winds gust extra excitement into the night forcing the happily huddling crowd to sit closer together. The U.S. Army Band played Christmas classics and carolers from local high schools chimed into a sing-a-long, eager to share the elixir of seasonal magic — that special ‘ahhh-haaaa’ moment when the National Christmas Tree is lit.

When President and Mrs. Trump arrived the crowd launched from their seats in a roar. Against the dark sky Mrs. Trump looked radiant in a tightly belted winter-white coat coordinated with a white turtle neck sweater and cream-colored boots. Without political commentary, the president wished everyone a Merry, Merry Christmas and reminded guests this is a holy season that celebrates the birth of Christ. The president then prompted the crowd to join the First Lady in the count-down to the ceremonial tree lighting.

Antonio Sabato Jr. hosted the remainder of the program that included an Invocation by a U.S. Army chaplain. Seeing black habits whipping in the wind, the crowd was stunned by the Dominican Sisters of Mary singing “Hark Hear the Bells.”  Performances by The Voice contestant Spensha Baker, American Idol contestant Gabby Barrrett, and others rocked around the Christmas tree until Santa arrived in a deep red suit with gold embellishment that Mrs. Claus must have spent all year working on. 

Christmas Eve 1923, former governor of Massachusetts, and 30th president of the United States Calvin Coolidge began the custom of lighting a national Christmas tree with his socially conscious and very fashionable wife, Grace.  Since then the uninterrupted presidential tradition has been moved up in the White House social calendar to encourage local and national performers to share their artistic Christmastime expressions on the Ellipse stage. December 5th through December 22nd fifty-nine performances are scheduled nightly and on weekends to feature dance, music, and songs to enhance the message of peace and goodwill throughout the season.

If you’d like to watch the 96th lighting of the National Christmas Tree ceremonies, Ovation and Reelz TV will broadcast the presentation at 10 p.m. Sunday, December 2. Check your local cable listings for channel information.

For more information about the National Parks Services see:


A long model miniature train track and Boston-themed ornaments on the National Christmas Tree are among the attractions in a public park just south of the White House. The ornaments depict, at top from left to right, the Minuteman statue at the east end of Lexington Common and  the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Freedom Bridge in Charlestown; and, at bottom from left to right, Old North Church in the North End and the Swan Boats in the lagoon at Boston Public Garden. Photos by Diane Kilgore.