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Arts & Culture

The National Christmas Tree Lighting 2012

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and Marian Robinson participate in the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2012.
Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and Marian Robinson participate in the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2012.

Airs Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Celebrating its 90th year, the lighting of the National Christmas Tree signals the start of the holiday season across the country. Taped at President's Park in Washington, D.C., the 60-minute special will feature performances and readings by top musical artists and actors. The evening's festivities will be capped off by the ceremonial lighting of the National Christmas Tree by a very special guest!

First Lady Michelle Obama reads “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” with Rico Rodriguez to children onstage during the lighting of the National Christmas Tree event on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2012.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
First Lady Michelle Obama reads “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” with Rico Rodriguez to children onstage during the lighting of the National Christmas Tree event on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2012.

Interactive Timeline

Explore American history through the story of a favorite holiday tradition - the lighting of the national Christmas tree.

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The program is hosted by Neil Patrick Harris with performances by Colbie Caillat, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, The Fray, Ledisi, Jason Mraz, Phillip Phillips, James Taylor and more. Plus a special guest appearance by MODERN FAMILY's Rico Rodriquez.

This year marks GE’s 50th year providing the design and lights for the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. This year also marks the 90th lighting of the National Tree. The new lighting design reflects elements of past designs and celebrates these impressive milestones.

The lighting design for this year’s National Christmas Tree includes approximately 450 LED light strings and 120 star ornaments, for a total of just under 4000 watts. If this same design were to be implemented with standard incandescent holiday lights, approximately 20,000 watts would be required.

Over the course of the holiday lighting season, the environmental impact of this energy savings is the avoidance of burning about one ton of coal, and a 4000-pound reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Presented by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation

National Park Foundation is on Facebook, and you can follow @GoParks on Twitter.

President Obama Lights the National Christmas Tree
The First Lady Receives the 2012 White House Christmas Tree
First Lady Previews the 2012 White House Holiday Decorations
Bo Inspects the 2012 White House Holiday Decorations