President Obama lights National Christmas Tree for final time

President Barack Obama, alongside First Lady Michelle Obama and their youngest daughter, Sasha, greets the crowd of thousands at the National Christmas Tree lighting. (photo: Paulette Singleton/Trice Edney News Wire)

President Barack Obama, alongside First Lady Michelle Obama and their youngest daughter, Sasha, greets the crowd of thousands at the National Christmas Tree lighting. (photo: Paulette Singleton/Trice Edney News Wire)

The White House is ready for Christmas. President Obama and the first family flipped the switch Thursday night – turning on the thousands of red, white, and blue LED lights on the 30-foot tall Colorado blue spruce in President’s Park, better known as the National Christmas Tree.

It was a star-studded night of performances by Kelly Clarkson, James Taylor, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

First Lady Michelle Obama did her annual reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” joined by Olympic gold medal swimmer Simone Manuel.

[portfolio_slideshow id=25400]

The National Tree is a tradition dating back 94 years. This year is President Obama’s last.

“After eight years as your president, I still believe there’s still so much more that unites us than divides us,” the president told the crowd. “As we’ve come back from the depths of an economic crisis to an economy on the move, we’ve recovered from wars and natural tragedies, what I’ve seen is a big-hearted, hopeful and resilient people.”

But it wasn’t all serious. The president finished the evening by joining Santa Claus for a round of “Jingle Bells.”

The entertainment continues beyond this event. Each night, from now until December 22, choirs and choruses from across the country will perform at the National Christmas Tree.

You can watch clips from the National Christmas Tree Lighting Special on the Hallmark Channel website.