President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump kicked off the holiday season in the nation’s capital Thursday evening by lighting the National Christmas for the first time.
For the special event that also included the Pageant of Peace ceremony, the first family was joined by hosts Dean Cain and Kathie Lee Gifford on the White House Ellipse.
Several White House officials were in attendance for the popular occasion including Donald Trump Jr.’s family and Tiffany Trump.
Ivanka Trump was also in attendance, as she brought along her young children – Arabella, Joseph and Theodore -and husband Jared Kushner.
The busy mother-of-three, who has spent time recently traveling abroad as White House senior advisor to her father, was sporting an Altuzarra’s AW17 collection $3,000 Bellasio collarless double-breasted wool coat.
The program kicked off with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke introducing the president while speaking from the podium.
‘Merry Christmas, America,’ he said, referring to the glowing tree behind him as ‘another iconic image of this blessed holiday,’ along with nativity scenes, presents, and cookies for Santa.
He called Trump ‘a man who loves our parks, loves our military, and loves our country. The man who brought `Merry Christmas’ back to our nation’s capital, and you did, sir.’
Trump then spoke for five minutes, and discussed the ‘incredible national Christmas tree’ while noting that the tradition goes back nearly a century.
‘The weather we have is the best it’s been in 25 years. In fact I said is it always like this. The secretary said it hasn’t been like this for a very long time, so we’re very lucky.’
He noted that President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation marking Christmas as a national holiday.
‘For Christians this is a holy season, the celebration of the birth of our lord and savior Jesus Christ,’ the president said.
‘The Christmas story begins 2000 years ago with a mother, a father, their baby son, and the most extraordinary gift of all, the gift of God’s love for all of humanity. Whatever our beliefs we know that the birth of Jesus Christ and the story of this incredibly life forever changed the course of human history.
‘There’s hardly an aspect of our lives today that his life has not touched – art, music, culture, law and our respect for the sacred dignity of every person, everywhere in the world. …. Each one of us is a child of God.
‘That is the true source of joy this time of the year. That is what makes every Christmas merry…. We are called to serve one another, to love one another, and to pursue peace in our hearts and all throughout the world.’
He thanked those serving the needy throughout the year and during this season, and military and law enforcement, and teachers and pastor.
‘And especially tonight I thank America’s families… The family is the bedrock of American life… We ask for God’s blessing for our families, for our nation,’ Trump said.
At the outset of his comments, President Trump noted that people wait with anticipation all year for Christmas.
‘Now as the president of the United States, it’s my tremendous honor to finally wish America and the world a very Merry Christmas,’ Trump said, and the audience cheered.
‘We pray that our country will be a place where every child knows a home filled with love, a community rich with hope, and a nation blessed with faith.’
To light the tree, Trump counted down from 10 with his wife, Melania, who pushed a button to set the tree aglow with golden lights and silver stars.
A number of celebrities also performed at the event including Boys II Bow Ties, Craig Campbell, Jack Wagner, Mannheim Steamroller, The Beach Boys, The Texas Tenors, Us The Duo, Wynonna and the U.S. Navy Band, led by Emmy-nominated music director Steve Gibson.
The lighting of the National Christmas tree is in its 95th year, easily making it one of the country’s oldest traditions.
President Calvin Coolidge first lit the tree on Christmas Eve in 1923 while on the Ellipse in front of more than 3,000 people.