Holidays in 2021

Last week, we wrote about several traditional events that are sadly suspended during the pandemic. This week we’re writing about the cheer that remains – the familiar holiday displays that can be seen throughout the city even during the pandemic.

The National Christmas Tree

The tradition of the National Christmas Tree, at the Ellipse just south of the White House, began 97 years ago. A live tree has been used since 1973, standing on the Ellipse all year but only decorated in December. Periodically, the tree dies and is replaced – the last replacement took place two months ago, where a 27-foot white fir replaced a fungus-ridden blue spruce.

©Victoria Pickering

The “Pageant of Peace” around the National Tree started in 1954, with a pathway of smaller trees representing each state, and nightly performances. Ornaments on the trees are made by children from each state.

©Angela N.

There are giant presents under the tree.

©Angela N.

On the north side of the White House, wreaths are on every window.

©Victoria Pickeringth

The Capitol Christmas Tree

The Capitol Christmas tree tradition began in 1964. The National Forest Service provides a tree from a different national forest each year. This year’s tree is from Six Rivers National Forest in California.

©Angela N.
©Angela N.
©Miki Jourdan

Ornaments are made each year by volunteers from the state where the tree is from. There are 4,000 ornaments on the tree, this year with an emphasis on using recycled materials and highlighting Woodsy Owl’s “don’t pollute” efforts.

Union Station

The Embassy of Norway has given the U.S. a tree to display in Union Station every year since 1997, honoring the link between the two countries and the aid given to Norway during WWII. This year’s tree is displayed in the grand hall.

©Angela N.

Union Station displays its traditional huge wreaths at the entrance.

©Angela N.

Yards Park

For the last few years, Yards Park has had a different light installation each year. This year, the display is of 22-foot tall trees with changing light patterns, created by the Australian studio Amigo & Amigo.

©Victoria Pickering


CityCenterDC displays a huge tree in the plaza by the center, and giant reindeer in the courtyard.

©Rob Klug
©Rob Klug

For one weekend in December, CityCenter erected an ice maze with 150,000 pounds of ice and colored lights. It was free, but with encouragement for visitors to donate to Children’s Hospital.

©Victoria Pickering

Dupont Circle area

Floriana Restaurant traditionally puts a large tree outside on 17th Street, decorated in an only-in-D.C. theme each year. This year’s theme focuses on Jill Biden and honoring America’s teachers.

Nearby, the Q Street Barbies are in full holiday mode.

F St. Holiday Market

The F St. holiday market is back for its 17th year, full of unique crafts for sale, and frequent performances.

The Wharf

There are decorations all over The Wharf, and a giant tree on one of the piers.

©Victoria Pickering

On the Market Pier, there’s a Jack Daniels Barrel Tree, with whiskey developed in partnership with the Washington Capitals. The whiskey barrels are auctioned off, to benefit a military charity.

©Victoria Pickering

Botanic Garden

The Botanic Garden has enchanted visitors for many years with its holiday displays and trains. This year, the inside of the Botanic Garden remains closed but the train display has been set up outside.

©Victoria Pickering


There’s a tall tree near the waterfront, and the traditional wreaths on all the lampposts by the waterfront and along M Street.

Enchant Christmas

Enchant Christmas takes over Nationals Stadium, with ice skating and a huge maze full of lighted holiday decorations. All the other displays listed in this article are free and open, but Enchant Christmas is a commercial event requiring ticket purchases.

©Victoria Pickering

Around town

Traditional displays each year include a giant tree by the Willard, and two nutcrackers standing guard by the Old Ebbitt Grill.

Carolers sing at the newly-reopened Franklin Park.

©Rob Klug

There are lots of smaller displays all over the city.

@Rob Klug


Earlier in December, there were several public menorahs displayed in the city. The 30-foot National Menorah has been on the Ellipse since 1971. This year, 2nd gentleman Doug Emhoff performed the ceremonial lighting.

©Angela N.

Elsewhere, there were public menorahs at The Wharf, Union Market, and Capitol Hill.

Remembering those who served

Last weekend, volunteers from the Wreaths Across America program placed wreaths on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery, saying each veteran’s name to honor them as each wreath was laid down.

©Victoria Pickering

Wreaths were also placed at the Vietnam Memorial, and there’s a tree with ornaments honoring veterans.

Wishing all of us the best for the holidays, with as much cheer and safety as possible during this second pandemic season.

Capitol Hill display, ©Miki Jourdan

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *