Wherever you are, there’s always a tree lighting event that has everyone in the town calling off work (or wishing they could) to admire the magnificent decorations. From downtown to your local town hall, these Christmas tree displays can be downright magical in all their bright, shining glory — and no tree lighting gets bigger buzz year after year than the annual National Christmas Tree lighting at the White House. Year after year and administration after administration, the President and First Lady have stepped out to take part in the December tradition, and photos of the rite of passage dating back to Gerald Ford are neat time capsules of what it looked like for the US to get into the holiday spirit each year.
It was President Calvin Coolidge who kicked off the very first White House tree lighting in 1923, and it’s been a tradition for nearly 100 years of American history since, though it wasn’t faithfully observed each and every year until decades later. In 1954, the Washington Board of Trade and the Washington Citizen’s Committee introduced a longer Christmas Pageant of Peace event focused around the tree lighting, adding in an entertainment component that exists to this day, with celebs like Billy Porter, H.E.R., and Maren Morris performing at this year’s show.
Presidents over the decades have gone all out for the Christmas show, bringing in A-list performances, unique touches, and thousands of lights.F rom President Gerald Ford to most recently, President Joe Biden, check out some festive photos of the White House National Christmas Tree lighting over the years below!