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The event is free but closed to the public on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. Otherwise, young and old can stroll through the lights until Jan. 1.

One of Washington’s oldest and most anticipated traditions is the National Christmas Tree, a knock-‘em-dead Colorado blue spruce in President’s Park behind the White House at 17th and D streets Northwest. The gold-star-topped, 31-foot-tall tree is surrounded by 56 smaller trees that represent the states, the territories and the District of Columbia. Decorated with one-of-a-kind ornaments by American children and artisans, the trees and the handicraft symbolize American history and the nation’s geopolitical landscape.

This is the 90th anniversary of the first lighting of a national tree. President Obama flipped a switch this year, but in 1923, President Coolidge bent over and pressed a button at the base of the tree to flash on the 2,500 red, white and green bulbs that news reports said lit up like a “blaze of glory.”

An enthusiastic crowd of thousands attended the lighting of the 48-foot-tall balsam fir, which was donated by Middlebury College.

Entertainment at the time included a Marine Corps quartet and the First Congregational Choir, as Coolidge was a Congregationalist.

Coolidge, like American presidents before and after him, delivered Christmas messages: “To the American people: Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world.”

This Christmas Eve, Cardinal Donald W. Weurl, the archbishop of Washington, offered a message of reflection during an interview: “When we celebrate Christmas itself, everybody can pause and reflect on what Christmas means. We’re celebrating the birth of Jesus.”

He added that His message is one “of hope, of peace, of love” — even if you’re not Christian.