WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and his family presided over the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Thursday in an annual ritual near the White House that featured musical performances from singers Patti LaBelle and Steve Miller.
Obama, who was joined by his wife, daughters, and mother-in-law, led the countdown to the lighting of the tree and thanked U.S. troops who would be away from their families over the holiday season.
"This Christmas, we count our blessings and we give thanks to the men and women of our military who help make those blessings possible," he said.
"And as we hold our loved ones tight, let's remember the military families whose loved ones are far from home. They are our heroes, and they deserve our heartfelt gratitude and our wholehearted support."
The event was hosted by actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, an actress and singer. Other artists included singer NE-YO, pop performers Nico & Vinz, singing group The Tenors, and country singer Chely Wright.
Reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Sandra Maler