WASHINGTON -- The National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony happened on Wednesday.

Security was tight and many streets downtown were blocked off as the President and First Lady kicked off the tradition.

For 96 years, presidents have been lighting the Christmas Tree.

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“There have been different trees since 1923,” Katie Liming, with the National Park Service, said.

Liming is sort of an expert on the National Christmas Tree.

“Yeah. It’s a national tradition that started in 1923 by President Calvin Coolidge,” Liming told WUSA9.

The first tree was lit in President’s park, and then the ceremony moved to the north side of the White House at Lafayette Square.

Years later, the national Christmas tree moved back to the south lawn.

For three years before 1945, the tree stayed dark during World War II.

President Harry Truman delivered a moving Christmas speech that year, saying, “This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for.”

The celebrations got bigger and bigger as the years went on.

In 1973, under the President Nixon administration, the country switched from cut trees to a living one.

Two of the live trees died, the park service researched and planted a new tree in 1978.

That tree lasted more than 30 years until a windstorm hit in 2011.

“In 2011, the tree, then, did sustain damage from high winds,” Liming recalled.

Gusts of up to 50 miles per hour snapped the national Christmas tree in half seven years ago

The tree was replaced in 2012 and is the same one that stands today.