Obamas spending low-key Christmas Eve in Hawaii

President Barack Obama greets well-wishers after arriving at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam December 23, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Kent Nishimura-Pool/Getty Images

HONOLULU - President Barack Obama and his family are easing into vacation mode, spending a low-key Christmas Eve out of the spotlight.

The president spent his first morning in Hawaii at a multimillion-dollar vacation home his family rents in the Kailua Beach area, near Honolulu. He skipped his standard early morning gym workout, and headed to the golf course later Saturday.

First lady Michelle Obama, meanwhile, got into the Christmas spirit by helping track Santa for NORAD. The North American Aerospace Defense Command has been telling anxious children about Santa's whereabouts every year since 1955.

The White House said Mrs. Obama answered several calls from children around the country who wanted to know how close Santa was to their homes.

Obama arrives in Hawaii for delayed holiday

The Obamas were to spend Christmas Eve at home with a close circle of family and friends that typically joins the president for his annual Hawaiian vacation. They include Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, who lives in the state with her family, and several friends the president has known since high school.

The president's annual December trip to the state where he was born and mostly raised almost didn't happen. He had planned to arrive in Hawaii on Dec. 17, but delayed his departure while Congress worked its way through a stalemate over extending payroll tax cuts.

A deal was finalized Friday morning. Hours later, the president boarded Air Force One for Hawaii to meet his wife and daughters, who traveled ahead of him.

Obama's first order of business when he arrived was taking his wife out to dinner. The couple joined a few friends at Morimoto restaurant, one of their favorite dining spots on the island of Oahu.

The president has no public events planned in Hawaii. A small group of advisers accompanied him to brief him on domestic and international developments.

The Obamas are expected to return to Washington shortly after New Year's Day.

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