WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the nation’s capital.
President Donald Trump led a countdown for the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Wednesday, and first lady Melania Trump hit the switch to illuminate the decked-out spruce in President’s Park, just south of the White House.
“Merry Christmas, everybody,” the president said. “We just have to say it all together: Merry, merry Christmas.”
It’s the 96th straight year for the presidential tradition.
Speaking at the close of the event, which featured musical performances from LOCASH, Spensha Baker, Gabby Barrett, Abby Anderson and others, Trump paused to recognize the victims of disasters across the country this year.
“Our thoughts turn to those who are rebuilding their lives after devastating wildfires, destructive hurricanes and terrible tragedy,” he said. “We are one American family, and we hurt together, and we heal together, and we will always pull through together.”
Trump also honored foster families in attendance, first responders, as well as members of the military and their loved ones.
“Their families are all our families,” he said.
The president’s children Don Jr. and Tiffany, daughter-in-law Lara Trump, Don Jr.’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke were also in attendance.
The first lighting took place on Christmas Eve in 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit a Christmas tree in front of 3,000 spectators.
The National Christmas Tree is a living Colorado blue spruce. It is surrounded by 56 smaller trees featuring ornaments from every state and territory and the District of Columbia.