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“We want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, have unbelievable holidays and we are now going to light a very beautiful tree, and I’ll ask our first lady to get ready and maybe we'll do a countdown from 10,” the president said from the podium as Melania stood at his side, her hand ready on the switch.
The president cued his wife and the Colorado Blue Spruce lit up behind them, covered almost entirely by thousands of lights.
In his later remarks, the president told the crowd how long he’d been waiting to say “Merry Christmas,” a nod to his 2016 campaign promises that Americans would be “saying Merry Christmas again.”
“Today is a day that I've been looking very much forward to all year long,” the president said. “It’s one that we've heard and we speak about and we dream about and now, as the president of the United States, it’s my tremendous honor to now wish America and the world a very Merry Christmas.”
Kathy Lee Gifford, a co-host on NBC’s “Today,” hosted the holiday celebration alongside actor Dean Caine. The one-hour event included performances from the Beach Boys, country-singer Wynnona Judd and the U.S. Navy Band.
“This tree is lit,” tweeted Rep. Steve Scalise, R- LA, who had a seat just behind the president.
The almost 100-year-old tradition dates back to the 30th president of the U.S., President Calvin Coolidge, in 1923.
It was in that first year that organizers officially deemed the tree the “National Christmas Tree.”
The tree is open to the public from morning to midnight beginning on Dec. 1, according to its website, and the lighting ceremony kicks off three weeks of nightly holiday music celebration in front of the tree.