US President Barack Obama got into the holiday spirit last night as the First Family lit up the new National Christmas Tree at White House.
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Sasha and Malia took the stage next to Santa Claus and Kermit the Frog and officially marked the start of the Christmas season with some carolling before they flipped the switch.
The 26ft Colorado blue spruce was planted in March on the Ellipse, a park that lies between the White House and the National Mall.
Strong winds in February toppled the previous tree, which stood in the park since 1978.
In remarks delivered during the tree-lighting ceremony, attended by hundreds, Barack Obama briefly retold the story of the birth of Jesus Christ and linked the religious leader to his own faith.
“And He grew up to become a leader with a servant’s heart who taught us a message as simple as it is powerful: that we should love God, and love our neighbour as ourselves.
“That teaching has come to encircle the globe. It has endured for generations and today it lies at the heart of my Christian faith and that of millions of Americans,” President Obama said.
Barack Obama urged the crowd to be generous and to help others in need during the holidays.
“In this season of hope, let’s help those who need it most: the homeless, the hungry, the sick and shut-in,” Barack Obama said.
“In this season of plenty, let’s reach out to those who struggle to find work or provide for their families.”
President Barack Obama welcomed troops returning home in time for the holiday, and asked Americans to express their gratitude to service members.
“In this season of generosity, let’s give thanks and honour to our troops and our veterans and their families who’ve sacrificed so much for us,” he said.
Barack Obama was joined at the ceremony by his wife, Michelle; daughters Sasha and Malia; and mother-in-law Marian Robinson.
Before the ladies hit the switch, President Obama said: “This is the new tree. I know it’s not quite as big as the old tree. But it’s going to take time to grow. But we’re going to fill it up with some spirit and start a new tradition right now.”
Michelle Obama also took the stage to read Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” with Muppet star Kermit the Frog and Santa Claus, as children gathered around.
The lighting ceremony, hosted by television’s Carson Daly, included performances of Christmas carols and tunes by pop group Big Time Rush, English singer Ellie Goulding, pop band OneRepublic, country singer Rodney Atkins, soul songstress Marsha Ambrosius and the Airmen of Note, a jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force.
The new National Christmas Tree was planted in March in a New Jersey nursery.
The ceremony marks the 89th holiday tree lighting.
The tradition began with President Calvin Coolidge in 1923.