Enjoy the winter holiday traditions while attending university in Washington DCLooking for a one-of-a-kind event to go to while you’re going to a university in Washington DC? Our location in Washington D.C. means that it’s easy to go in and do the things one would only find in D.C. One of the most singular this time of year is the National Christmas Tree and the festivities that go on around it during December until the first of January.

First, the tree itself. It’s big (40 feet plus), it’s beautiful, and it’s a winter holiday tradition.

This year, the tree is decorated to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. As a result, it will be decorated in sparkling gold and silvery white, colors that are traditionally used for milestone anniversaries. The tree’s decorations are subtly layered so they reveal warm lights whether looked at from afar or examined at a closer distance. Warm white constant lights are the base, topped with twinkling icicle lights that provide texture and subtle animation.

To create vertical garland bands down the tree, gold net lights are encased with beautiful gold mesh ribbons that appear to shine in both nighttime and daytime. Illuminated pure white star ornaments flow along the gold ribbon, providing a lovely silver color contrast. The stars pay tribute to the National Park Service Centennial by reminding viewers of the National Parks–the “shining stars” across our nation. (The National Parks Service is responsible for the National Christmas Tree every year.)

A visit to the tree includes walking the Pathway of Peace, a group of smaller trees that are (like the National Christmas Tree itself) beautifully decorated. The trees are intended to represent all 50 states, 5 territories, and the District itself. Check out D.C.’s tree!

In addition, choirs, dancers, musical groups, and bands will be giving free performances throughout each week. From Tuesdays through Fridays, performances start around 5 p.m. and end by 8:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, performances go from 1-8:30 p.m., great for a weekend tour. Musical groups and dancers from the Washington, D.C. area and across the country are scheduled to perform.

The programs of music and dance can be found here. Want a representative sample? On Sunday, December 11, for example, ice dancers from the Virginia Ice Theatre will perform, followed by the Dawn Crafton Dancer Connection of Gaithersburg, MD and the Children of the Light Dancers of Fairfax, VA. They will be followed by singing from Ashburn, VA’s Studio Bleu Vocal Arts. The evening ends with a dance by the Cardinal Cloggers of Herndon, VA.

On the next Sunday, visitors have a chance to hear The Christmas Singers from Gaithersburg, MD, the Washington D.C. Mennonite Chorus, The Trinity Brass of Frederick, MD, and the Central Bucks West Chamber Choir of Doylestown, PA. The evening ends with a rousing Celtic dance finale from the Boyle School of Irish Dance in Manassas, VA.

Altogether, visitors to the National Christmas Tree have a chance to see ukulele orchestras, clogging, and step dancing, and to hear choruses and chorales made up of their fellow citizens.

The area also includes a large-scale model train and a Yule log.

Where can you see the National Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace? It is on The Ellipse near the White House. The entire area is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Entrance to the area is free.

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Parking near the White House is very limited, of course. However, public transportation will get you there! The closest Metro stations to the White House are Federal Triangle, Metro Center and McPherson Square.

To get the latest updates about the National Tree festivities, you can follow @TheNationalTree lighting, or text NCTL2015 to 888777.

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