Washington: US President Barack Obama and the first family lit up the national Christmas tree in a traditional ceremony here, officially marking the start of the Christmas season.
The US president was accompanied by his wife, Michelle, their two daughters Sasha and Malia, as well as his mother-in-law, Marian Robinson at the ceremony yesterday.
The First family of the United States, were joined by Kermit the Frog, puppeteer Jim Henson`s most famous Muppet creation in lighting the national Christmas tree.
"For 89 years, Presidents and Americans have come together to light the National Christmas Tree. And this year is a special one. This year, we have a brand new tree. The last one stood here for more than 30 years, until we lost it in a storm earlier this year," Obama said in his remarks at the ceremony attended by thousands of spectators.
"But we all know that this tradition is much larger than any single tree. And tonight, once again, we gather here not simply to light some decorations, but to honour a story that lights the world," he said.
Children in the audience were thrilled that Kermit was there and laughed heartily at his jokes. They also sang to all the Christmas songs they knew, most loudly and cheerfully to Santa`s rendition of Rudolph.
"More than 2,000 years ago, a child was born to two faithful travellers who could find rest only in a stable, among the cattle and the sheep. But this was not just any child. Christ`s birth made the angels rejoice and attracted shepherds and kings from afar," Obama said.
"He was a manifestation of God`s love for us. 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," the US President said.
"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. No matter who we are, or where we come from, or how we worship, it`s a message that can unite all of us on this holiday season," he added.
The ceremony marks the 89th holiday tree lighting. The tradition began with President Calvin Coolidge in 1923.