President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump officially kicked off the Christmas season Wednesday night when they participated in the 96th National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.
The ceremony was held on the Ellipse outside the White House on Wednesday, the grounds sporting their best holiday décor as hundreds gathered for the annual event. Before flipping the switch on the Colorado blue spruce from Virginia, the president had the crowd count down to the tree lighting with him, as is tradition.
Introduced by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as “the man who brought Christmas back to America,” Trump offered remarks on the birth of Jesus, honored first responders and members of the military, and reflected on those who have lost their lives or are rebuilding after wildfires, hurricanes, and other tragedies before the official lighting.
Tonight, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump lit the National Christmas Tree in President's Park on the Ellipse! pic.twitter.com/rYMaOfaxgd— The White House (@WhiteHouse) November 28, 2018
“On behalf of @FLOTUS Melania and the entire Trump family, I want to wish you all a very MERRY CHRISTMAS! May this Christmas Season bring peace to your hearts, warmth to your homes, cheer to your spirits and JOY TO THE WORLD!” the president tweeted following the event.
The event featured a number of live performers, including the Dominican Sisters of Mary and Anthony Kearns of The Irish Tenors, and the 56 schools from across the country helped decorate the 56 smaller trees that surround the National Christmas Tree as part of the America Celebrates display.
While the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony officially kicked off the nation’s holiday season, the White House has already begun celebrating. After welcoming the 2018 White House Christmas tree – a 19-foot tall tree hailing from Mountain Top Fraser Fir farm in Newland, North Carolina – earlier this month, First Lady Melania Trump unveiled the White House's Christmas decor on Monday, Nov. 26.
This year’s theme, “American Treasures,” honors the unique heritage of America and features elements echoing back to American history and all 50 states. According to a White House press release, the display “shines with the spirit of patriotism” and displays the “many splendors found across our great Nation.”
Keeping with tradition, the Gold Star Family tree decorates the East Wing. The tree honors troops and families of those who have “sacrificed greatly to protect our freedoms” and is lined with gold stars and patriotic ribbons.
This year’s display also features 72 handmade ornaments representing six regions across America in the East Room, 40 topiary trees in the East Colonnade that some have said resemble Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as 29 trees adorned with more than 14,000 red ornaments in the Grand Foyer.