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Obama family lights Washington Christmas tree

President Barack Obama and the first family arrive to take part in the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in Washington
President Barack Obama and the first family arrive to take part in the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony in Washington

By Lily Kuo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and his family lit a new National Christmas Tree on Thursday evening as they attended a festive holiday concert.

On a stage decorated with white lights and snowflakes, the president, his two daughters Sasha and Malia, First Lady Michelle Obama and her mother Marian Robinson, flipped the switch to light up the 26-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce.

Speaking to an audience of hundreds, 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 neighbor 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," he said.

Headlining the event held at the Ellipse south of the White House was television and radio personality Carson Daly and performers Big Time Rush, Ellie Goulding, One Republic and others.

Kermit the Frog and Santa Clause also made appearances after an impromptu reading by the First Lady of "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

The new National Christmas Tree was planted in March. It is from a New Jersey nursery.

A storm felled the previous tree in February.

The ceremony marked the 89th year for the tree lighting. President Calvin Coolidge started the tradition in 1923.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson and Lily Kuo; Editing by Greg McCune)

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