5, 4, 3, 2, 1… The Obama Family Lights The National Christmas Tree

Ed. Note: Watch the full National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony and show with musical performances by B.B. King, Sara Bareilles, Common, Maroon 5 and more at www.thenationaltree.org.

Last night, the First Family continued a proud holiday tradition – lighting the National Christmas Tree for the 88th time. View photos from the event and watch a video of the President's remarks, the tree lighting ceremony, and a reading of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" by the First Lady.

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The First Family Lights the National Christmas Tree

President Barack Obama, with mother-in-law Marian Robinson, daughters Sasha and Malia, and First Lady Michelle Obama, react as they push to button to light the National Christmas Tree during a ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The President On Stage at the National Christmas Tree Lighting

President Barack Obama addresses the crowd as he and the First Family attend the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The First Family Listens to the Christmas Tree Lighting Program

President Barack Obama and First Family listen to the program at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The First Lady Reads the Night Before Christmas

First Lady Michelle Obama reads "The Night Before Christmas" to a group of children during the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

BB King Performs at the National Tree Lighting Ceremony

BB King performs "Merry Christmas Baby" at the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The National Christmas Tree Shines Bright

The National Christmas Tree shines bright during the lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, Dec. 9, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

“Snow or shine, in good times and in periods of hardship, folks like you have gathered with Presidents to light our national tree,” said President Obama, “Now, it hasn’t always gone off without a hitch. On one occasion, two sheep left the safety of the Nativity scene and wandered into rush-hour traffic. That caused some commotion.”

He continued, touching on the history of the ceremony and taking a moment to honor the men and women that are serving in uniform overseas this holiday season:

Often, the ceremony itself has reflected the pain and sacrifice of the times.  There were years during the Second World War when no lights were hung, in order to save electricity.  In the days following Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill joined President Roosevelt to wish our nation a Happy Christmas even in such perilous days.

But without fail, each year, we have gathered here.  Each year we’ve come together to celebrate a story that has endured for two millennia.  It’s a story that’s dear to Michelle and me as Christians, but it’s a message that's universal:  A child was born far from home to spread a simple message of love and redemption to every human being around the world.

It’s a message that says no matter who we are or where we are from, no matter the pain we endure or the wrongs we face, we are called to love one another as brothers and as sisters.  

And so during a time in which we try our hardest to live with a spirit of charity and goodwill, we remember our brothers and sisters who have lost a job or are struggling to make ends meet. We pray for the men and women in uniform serving in Afghanistan and Iraq and in faraway places who can’t be home this holiday season.  And we thank their families, who will mark this Christmas with an empty seat at the dinner table.

On behalf of Malia, Sasha, Michelle, Marian -- who’s our grandmother-in-chief -- (laughter) -– and Bo -- don’t forget Bo  -- (applause) -- I wish all of you a merry Christmas and a blessed holiday season.  

And now I’m going to invite the entire Obama crew up here to help me light this Christmas tree.  (Applause.)  

All right, everybody, we’re going to count from five -- five, four, three, two, one.

(The tree is lit.)  (Applause.)  

Merry Christmas, everybody!  

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