President Barack Obama joined Americans in celebrating the holidays at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, December 4, 2014.
First daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama, helped their father to light the national Christmas tree. They were joined by their mother Michelle, and their maternal grandmother Marian Robinson, as they clustered around the light switch just feet away from the White House
First Lady Michelle Obama read from The Night Before Christmas at the event hosted by Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson.
The major musical performances came from singers Patti LaBelle and Steve Miller.
In his address, President Barack Obama said the national tree is a “symbol of hope and holiday spirit”.
Barack Obama urged Americans to remember members of the U.S. military serving overseas, as well as their families: “As we hold our loved ones tight, let’s remember the military families whose loved ones are far from home.
“They are our heroes.”
There followed performances from artists including singer NE-YO, pop performers Nico & Vinz, The Tenors and Chely Wright.
The 2014 ceremony marks the 92nd annual lighting of the Christmas tree just steps from the White House.
The tradition was started by President Calvin Coolidge in 1923, according to the National Parks Service.
The 2014 official Christmas Tree has arrived at the White House.
A horse-drawn wagon hauled the 20-foot white fir up the driveway to the North Portico for inspection on Friday morning.
Receiving the tree were first lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha and family dogs Bo and Sunny.
The family circled the tree, smelled it and conferred before the first lady said: “Thumbs-up. It’s a go. We’re taking the tree.”
Malia Obama, holding Bo’s leash, said of the tree: “It’s great. It’s big.”
It’s tradition for the first lady to preside over the tree delivery on the morning after Thanksgiving. The odds are slim to none that it would ever be rejected.
The tree is chosen weeks in advance at the farm that wins the National Christmas Tree Association contest. The winner has presented the official White House tree since 1966.
In late September, a group of White House staffers including the chief usher, groundskeeper and chief horticulturist traveled to the Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, to search for a tree they agreed is perfect enough to stand in the Blue Room, albeit tethered to its ceiling, as the main attraction throughout the White House holiday season. The Blue Room tree cannot be taller than 18 ½ feet, so this tree will be trimmed to fit.
The farm, run by Christ Botek, a second-generation Christmas tree farmer, also provided the official White House tree in 2010 and 2006.
The delivery marked the start of an intense few days of round-the-clock tree trimming, wreath laying and other decorating by an army of volunteer decorators who help turn the White House into a winter wonderland. Many of the decorations honor military families, a group that Michelle Obama is trying to support through a nationwide initiative.
Michelle Obama has invited military families to the White House for a first look at the decorations on Wednesday, November 27.
The National Park Service and the National Park Foundation announced December 4 as the date for the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting on the White House Ellipse at President’s Park.
The 2014 National Christmas Tree Lighting is Thursday, December 4, at 5 PM.
Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Fifty Harmony, Patti LaBelle, NE-YO, Chely Wright, Nico & Vinz and The Tenors will perform at this year’s ceremony.
Free tickets for the lighting ceremony have been awarded through an online lottery.