President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Sasha, second from right, and Malia, left, react as they light the National Christmas Tree during the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at the Ellipse in Washington, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013.
Carolyn Kaster/AP

Obamas light national Christmas tree in star-studded event

Updated

Washington was drenched in rain Friday but managed to get a little more Christmas joy anyway as the first family came out to flip the switch at the 91st National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony in at President’s Park in Washington, D.C.

Addressing the rain soaked crowds, President Obama was joined by first lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, and mother-in-law Marian Robinson in the event which dates back to 1923, when First Lady Grace Coolidge gave permission for D.C. Public Schools to celebrate Christmas by placing a tree on the Ellipse south of the White House.

The president took a moment from his Christmas remarks to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela. “We are all privileged to live in a world touched by his goodness,” he said.

He took a strong religious tone in his remarks as well, saying that Christ’s kindness and charity should be a model for all Americans during the Christmas season and beyond. 

“Through a life of humility and the ultimate sacrifice, a life guided by faith and kindness towards others, Christ assumed a mighty voice, teaching us lessons of compassion and charity than have lasted more than two millennia,” he said. “He ministered to the poor, he embraced the outcasts, he healed the sick.”

“No matter what God you pray to, or if you pray to none at all, we all have a responsibility to ourselves and to each other to make a difference that is real and lasting. We are our brother’s keeper, we are our sister’s keeper,” he continued. “So in this season of generosity let’s reach out to those who need help the most.”

Emmy-award winning actress Jane Lynch hosted the event, which included musical performances from musical legends like Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, and Arturo Sandoval – who made his second trip to the White House in as many months after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in November.

Contemporary music stars including the Avett Brothers, Prince Royce, and Janelle Monae braved the rain as well to sing Christmas classics like “Away in a Manger” and “The Christmas Song” at the National Park Service event

But not all the stars were musicians. First Lady Michelle Obama was joined by Sesame Street’s Abby Cadabby to read “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” At the end of the reading, a little girl walked up to the first lady and asked if the president could come visit her at Franconia Elementary School, prompting the first lady to whisk her off the stage, saying  ”Well, let’s go talk to him.” 

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White House

Obamas light national Christmas tree in star-studded event

Updated