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Obamas On Hand For National Christmas Tree Lighting

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The White House is all set for the lighting of the 2011 National Christmas Tree.
NBC Washington
The White House is all set for the lighting of the 2011 National Christmas Tree.

The National Christmas Tree on the ellipse south of the White House has been lit for the season. The ceremony kicked-off Thursday evening on the Elipse just south of the White House. President Obama and his family officially lit the tree, and several musical acts took the stage to entertain crowd members  who were lucky enough to score a ticket.

Before lighting the tree, Mr. Obama thanked the troops serving overseas -- and earned loud applause when he mentioned that some would be coming home soon for the holidays. Then the first family joined the president on stage and illuminated the tree.

It was a new tree this year though: a 26-foot-tall Colorado blue spruce from a tree nursery in New Jersey that was planted in March. The previous tree had stood on the Ellipse since 1978, but was toppled in February by strong winds. 

The tree lighting is a tradition that began with President Calvin Coolidge in 1923.

Several streets were closed while the ceremony was going on, which slowed the evening rush downtown.

The 89th Annual National Christmas Tree Lighting can be watched online.

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