It was a crisp night, and the red and white lights were twinkling in the darkness. The sound of horns played in the background. It should have been a joyous celebration -- the lighting of the National Christmas Tree [Metro, Dec. 2] -- but it wasn't. The lights and horns were not Christmas lights and trumpets, but the brake lights and horns of thousands of cars and drivers stuck in the gridlock that ensued from about 5 p.m. until just shy of 8 p.m.

And we are worried about terrorists? We can't even handle the simple flipping of a switch to light a Christmas tree.

MARK METZGER

Silver Spring

As I sat for two hours in traffic on Dec. 1, the night of the Christmas tree lighting, I wondered why this gridlock is repeated every year.

We know when the tree will be lighted. We know that it will occur at evening rush hour, yet as I got on a bus at 6:10 p.m., the traffic cops were absent from K Street and Connecticut Avenue NW.

When I finally made it home at 8 p.m. (the trip usually takes 30 minutes), I decided to write The Post and ask: Why can't the District manage downtown traffic better, especially when it knows the schedule of a major event?

NANCY RALEY

Washington