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W E D N E S D A Y

Though the 40-foot Colorado blue spruce known as the National Christmas Tree always grabs the spotlight, the real attraction of the annual Christmas Pageant of Peace at the Ellipse remains the unheralded yule log. No quaint Dickensian outdoor hearth, this huge pit of burning timber reminds us of the holiday’s pagan roots: Here pilgrims can gaze into the flames and contemplate the wrath of Woden—there’s also a nearby refreshment stand serving complimentary hot cocoa and cookies. President Clinton is expected to light the tree at 5 p.m.; no word yet on which celebrity (Dick Van Dyke? Bart Simpson? The Baywatch crew?) will ignite the log. Wednesday evening’s program also features Aretha Franklin,Trisha Yearwood, the U.S. Marine Band, and the ubiquitous Willard Scott as Santa Claus. From 5-6 p.m. at the Ellipse, 15th & Constitution Ave. NW. Other musical performances will be held nightly from Dec. 8-30; the tree will remain lit through Jan. 2. FREE. (202) 619-7222. (Eddie Dean)

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