Following a tradition that goes back about 86 years, the Obama family lit the National Christmas Tree Thursday as scores of spectators and a host of top-flight talent, administration officials and the world’s most famous elf joined in the festivities.
President Obama got some help from First lady Michelle Obama and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, as he pressed the button that turned on the lights of the 40-foot Colorado blue spruce, which is growing on the Ellipse, just south of the White House. "I'm technologically challenged, and I might not get this right," joked Obama. "Everybody has got to help me out here."
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The entertainment included Obama-shindig regular Sheryl Crow, who sang "Jingle Bell Rock"; Hip-hop artist Common, who rapped as a children's group sang; and "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks. Surrounded by children, Mrs. Obama read "The Night Before Christmas."
Vice President Joe Biden and his grandchildren seemed to enjoy the activities, as did the North Pole’s most talked-about couple, Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.
The Bible story of the first Christmas contains a message for the entire world, Obama said. "It represents a tradition that we celebrate as a country – a tradition that has come to represent more than any one holiday or religion, but a season of brotherhood and generosity to our fellow citizens."
It’s also a time to reflect on those who are less fortunate, the president said, reminding that there are still many Americans out of work or facing foreclosure in these tough economic times. There are also those in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
"We will be thinking of you and praying for you during this holiday season," he said.
The presidential lighting of the National Christmas Tree is a tradition that dates back to Calvin Coolidge in 1923.