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First Family Lights Up National Christmas Tree

The nation's capital is officially in the Christmas spirit.

President Obama and his family lit the National Christmas Tree Thursday night. Celebrating the 89th annual lighting of the tree, the Obama's were joined by TV host Carson Daly, boy band Big Time Rush, country singer Rodney Atkins and Kermit the Frog.

But this year, the first family lit up a brand new tree. The 42-foot tree that once stood at the Ellipse for more than 30 years was toppled over by heavy winds earlier this year. "But we all know that this tradition is much larger than any single tree, Obama said. "And tonight, once again, we gather here not simply to light some decorations, but to honor a story that lights the world."

During brief remarks, Obama reflected on the teachings of Christmas. He talked about the birth of Christ saying He was not just any child. "He was a manifestation of God's love for us," Obama said. "That teaching has come to encircle the globe...And today, it lies at the heart of my Christian faith and that of millions of Americans. No matter who we are, or where we come from, or how we worship, it's a message that can unite all of us on this holiday season."

The president urged the crowd to make this a season of giving by helping the homeless, the hungry and the sick and reaching out to those families who are struggling to work and provide for their families.

Obama also welcomed the troops who are coming home for the holidays and said to "give thanks and honor to our troops and our veterans, and their families who've sacrificed so much for us."

After his remarks, Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, and mother-in-law Marian Robinson joined the president on stage to light the new 26-foot tree, which was remarkably smaller than the old tree. Obama commented "I know it's not quite as big as the old tree, but it's going to take time to grow...we're going to fill it up with some spirit and start a new tradition right now."

After the tree-lighting, Kermit the Frog joined the first lady on stage to read "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" to a group of children. And of course good old Santa Claus was there to make an appearance and celebrate, too.

The evening ended with the Obama clan and all the evening's performers gathering on stage to sing "Jingle Bells" and "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."