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President George W. Bush and Laura Bush attend the Pageant of Peace Tree Lighting on the Ellipse near the White House Thursday, Dec. 5.
President George W. Bush and Laura Bush attend the Pageant of Peace Tree Lighting on the Ellipse near the White House Thursday, Dec. 5.
The Pageant of Peach and the National Tree

Fact Sheet Remarks by the President at the Pageant of Peace Tree Lighting

Sixty years ago, the holiday season in Washington, D.C. was overshadowed by a horrible event on December 7, the attack on Pearl Harbor. Increased security at the White House and the awareness of America's new war, however, could not dampen the spirit of the season.

President Roosevelt welcomed a crowd of thousands for the annual Christmas Eve lighting of the National Christmas Tree. Americans across the nation listening by radio heard the President's radiant voice speak words of comfort.

Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Richard Cheney, participates in the annual Pageant of Peace tree-topping tradition. White House photo by Susan Sterner. "Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them, we set our faith in human love and in God's care for us all men everywhere," said President Roosevelt.

Then the crowd and radio listeners heard another distinctive voice-the voice of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, whose last visit to the United States was forty years earlier. The Prime Minister's surprise appearance boosted the crowd's enthusiasm.

Churchill said, "Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied the right to live in a free and decent world."

The two leaders of the Allied Forces then joined the crowd in singing carols and each nation's national anthem.

President Roosevelt had invited Prime Minister Churchill to the White House for a war council meeting on Christmas Eve. The meeting was so secretive that President told the First Lady about the Prime Minister's visit and his guests the day they were to arrive. The Prime Minister spent the holidays with the President and the two discussed the challenges to come.

The National Tree Lighting Ceremony began in 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge pushed a button to turn on the lights of a Vermont Balsam fir at a ceremony on the Ellipse hosted by the community department of Washington D.C.'s public schools.

The focus of the event expanded into the "Christmas Pageant of Peace" in 1954. Smaller live trees representing the 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia, formed a "Pathway of Peace."

Today, the annual ceremony is known as the "Pageant of Peace" and takes place south of the White House on the Ellipse. Center to the season's celebration is the living National Christmas Tree, a Colorado blue spruce from York, Pennsylvania, planted on the Ellipse October 20, 1978. The tree stands as a daily reminder of the holiday spirit and of the tradition each succeeding President has participated in since 1923.

Past National Trees at the Pageant of Peace

Leading the 2001 Christmas Pageant of Peace program, President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush preside over the lighting ceremonies for the National Christmas Tree, a 40-foot Colorado blue spruce.
The President
The 1993 tree was lit with large diamond-shaped and round lights that resembled ornaments.
The 1990 tree was filled with stars, balls and gold and red lights.
Large red stars adorned the 1981 tree.
The Washington Monument glows behind the soon-to-be-lit 1979 tree. In 1978, a Colorado blue spruce from York, Pennsylvania, was planted on the Ellipse as the national living tree.
White tinsel and white balls fill the 1975 tree.
Gold tinsel criss-crossed the limbs of the star-crowned 1973 tree.
Red lights adorn the state trees surrounding the tree in 1965. Smaller live trees representing the 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia, form a 'Pathway of Peace.'
Remembering President John F. Kennedy, President Lyndon Johnson lit the 1963 tree.
President Dwight Eisenhower turns on the lights for the 1953 National Community Christmas Tree. The following year, the ceremony was renamed the 'Pageant of Peace.'
President Harry Truman pushes the button to turn on the lights for the 1945 National Community Christmas Tree.
The 1940 National Community Christmas Tree, lit by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, glows in front of the Washington Monument.
President Hoover and Mrs. Hoover pose in front of the 1930 National Community Christmas Tree.