A Star-Studded Christmas Tree Lighting

President and First Family set to light National Christmas Tree

Santa may have to take a back seat to the president for this one -- the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse.

The annual tradition heralds in the holidays as President Obama and the First Family will welcome visitors Thursday night for the lighting of the tree. The festivities begin at 5 p.m. and this year the president will be lighting the tree sometime between 5:10 and 5:15 p.m. In past years the tree was lit just before 6 p.m.

This year's celebration includes performances by hip-hop artist Common, who will serve as the master of ceremonies, blues legend B.B. King, and pop stars Maroon 5 and Sara Bareilles. An "America's Got Talent" fan fave -- the 10-year-old soprano Jackie Evancho -- and Washington's own Duke Ellington School of the Arts Choir will also be on hand to entertain the guests.

And, yes, Santa will make a special appearance, even though he's not getting top billing this time.

Although tickets to the event have already been distributed, you can watch it online here on NBCWashington.com or on WETA on Friday, Dec. 10 at 9 p.m.

Now for your (brief) history lesson: President Calvin Coolidge hosted the first National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony back in 1923. This year marks the 87th annual event.

Click here for traffic restrictions around the event.

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