*The were over an hour late, but the Obama family – mom, dad, daughters and mother-in-law – eventually pushed the button Thursday night for the annual lighting of the White House National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in Washington.
As President Obama counted down from five, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11, pushed the big button to light up the soaring blue spruce tree behind them, covered in cascading white lights and topped with a yellow star. It was the 90th annual lighting of the tree.
Mrs. Obama had on a bright turquoise blue overcoat with a sparkly texture over white pants and scarf, while her daughters were in knit caps and coats in orange, pink and poppy. The president was in his usual black coat and black suit with a burgundy scarf.
Neil Patrick Harris, hosting the annual ritual on the Ellipse adjacent to the White House, welcomed the Obamas on stage shortly before 6 p.m. After lighting the tree and shouting “Merry Christmas,” the family left the stage to sit in the audience where actor Rico Rodriguez, from “Modern Family,” sat with them. Mrs. Obama and Rodriguez later read from ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
The president also made a few remarks, with special attention to the families in the Northeast still struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
“Now, we know that some of our neighbors to the north saw a more ruthless and destructive Sandy,” Obama said. “And this holiday season is especially difficult for families who lost everything in the storm. But it’s also a time for us to be grateful for the heroism and perseverance of ordinary men and women in the storm’s path who’ve showed us that Americans will always be stronger than the challenges that we face. And as I did before Thanksgiving, I can’t help but tell a story of their enduring holiday spirit.”
The show featured performances by Jason Mraz, Ledisi, James Taylor, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Colbie Caillat and “American Idol” season 11 winner Phillip Phillips.