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National Christmas Tree Lighting Lottery Starts

(CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Decorations might stay off the shelves until after Halloween, but if you want to see the Dec. 4 National Christmas Tree lighting on the White House Ellipse this year, you better get your head wrapped around the holidays at least for this week.

The lottery for tickets to attend the annual event opened Friday and will close on Oct. 20.

“It’s an amazing place to have this symbol right in front of the White House,” said Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles of the National Park Service.

The first National Christmas Tree lighting took place in 1913, when the ceremony was held on the East Plaza of the Capitol. A few years later it was moved to the White House Ellipse, where it has stayed ever since.

Anzelmo-Sarles says because the number of people interested fluctuates, it is hard to predict ahead of time whether the chance of getting one of the 3,000 seated tickets or 14,000 standing-room-tickets is better than the odds of winning cash from a lottery ticket.

But it's free and it’s worth a shot to see the Colorado Blue Spruce all spruced up with lights and ornaments. It's from York, Pa., and was planted in 1978.

This is Anzelmo-Sarles’ first year on the job as a park spokeswoman, so it will be her first year seeing the event that she described as having “all of the good feelings of the holiday season."