The first family presses the switch and turns on the lights for the National Christmas Tree Lighting on the Ellipse in 2013. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

It’s not even Halloween, but it isn’t too early to start planning for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.

The National Park Service and National Park Foundation said the free tickets to the event will be distributed through an online lottery that will open Oct. 17 at 10 a.m. The lottery will close on Oct. 20.

The tree lighting occurs at the White House Ellipse in President’s Park and will be held Dec. 4.

To request tickets, go to For those without computer access, call 1-877-444-6777 for tickets.

Those who are selected for tickets through the lottery will be notified starting Nov. 3.

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree started 90 years ago. In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge lit a 48-foot fir tree, decorated with 2,500 red, white and green electric bulbs.

Over the years, the tradition continued with memorable moments. In 1934, two Frasier fir trees were planted near the Jackson Statue in hopes that they would be used as the National Christmas Tree.

When President Harry S. Truman lit the tree in 1945 after the end of World War II, he said, “This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for through long and awful years.

“With peace come joy and gladness,” he said. “The gloom of the war years fades as once more we light the National Christmas Tree.”

Since 1954, the National Christmas Tree has been decorated by Hargrove Inc., the professional event decorating company in Lanham. Hargrove was known for manually installing every socket and testing every bulb to make sure they worked.

In the 1970s, the two live trees planted on the Ellipse died, and, over the years, trees have been brought in from elsewhere for the tradition. In the last few years, the tree has had LED lights to make the decorations more efficient.