The first family ushered in the start of the holiday season with the lighting of the National Christmas Tree Thursday evening. Gabriel Muller | Multimedia Editor
The first family welcomed the start of the holiday season Thursday night with the 87th annual lighting of the National Christmas Tree.
Hosted by rapper and actor Common, thousands of onlookers shivered inside President’s Park near the White House to watch the 42-foot Colorado blue spruce light up with LEDs as the most energy efficient tree in the tradition’s history.
“This is a very proud holiday tradition,” President Barack Obama said. “Snow or shine, in good times or in periods of hardship, folks like you have gathered with presidents to light our national tree.”
With performances by B.B. King, Sara Bareilles, Maroon 5, Ingrid Michaelson and 10-year-old opera phenomenon Jackie Evancho, the celebration featured Christmas-themed songs and a special appearance by Santa Claus.
While reading “The Night Before Christmas” onstage to about 10 children, Michelle Obama accidentally skipped forward a few pages into the story before realizing the need to backtrack.
“The first lady is taking off her gloves,” she said.
Common brought a sense of lyricism to his hosting duties.
“Right here, everything is evident, because we came here to celebrate with the President,” Common recited. “Understand common sense. When we’re here, peace no drama. Just think, we get to sit and celebrate with all of the Obamas.”
“It was wonderful. The peace of everybody here, the unity,” said Deidra King-Ross of Luray, Va. “It’s cold, but it’s still good.”
The lighting of the tree dates 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit the tree on the Ellipse for the first time.
Each night until January 1, 2011, the tree will remain lit from dusk to 11 p.m.
Tickets for the event were distributed through a lottery. For those who missed it, a video of the ceremony can be viewed online.