First family kicks off the holiday season with the National Christmas Tree ceremony

President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Sasha lighting the 2016 National Christmas Tree during the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. 

Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP

President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their youngest daughter, Sasha, kicked off the holiday season by lighting up National Christmas Tree for the last time on Thursday evening.

President Obama and the crowd in President’s Park counted down from five before the first family--minus Malia--pressed the button that lights the tree, which is located on the Ellipse south of the White House.


U.S. President Barack Obama hosts the National Christmas Tree Lighting and Pageant of Peace ceremony on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington December 3, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas


Actress Eva Longoria hosted the 94th National Christmas Tree ceremony, held annually since 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge began the tradition.

Kelly Clarkson launched the celebration with a song dedicated to men and women in uniform, singing “Please Come Home For Christmas.” She was joined in performances by singer-songwriter Marc Anthony, gospel singer Yolanda Adams, and country stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood. The Lumineers, Chance the Rapper and five-time Grammy award winner James Taylor.

Simone Manuel, the first female African-American swimmer to win an Olympic medal in an individual event, is expected to make an appearance as well.

The event will be broadcast Dec. 5 on the Hallmark Channel.

  • Julia Boccagno

    Julia Boccagno is a news associate for CBS News.