WASHINGTON, Dec. 4 (UPI) -- George W. Bush kicked off his last Christmas season as president of the United States by lighting the national Christmas tree in Washington Thursday.
"Today we celebrate the 85th anniversary of the National Christmas Tree lighting," Bush said in brief remarks. "In times of calm, and in times of challenge, Americans have gathered for this ceremony. The simple story we remember during the season speaks to every generation."
Before the tree lighting, the president, his wife, Laura, and others in the audience heard a musical program featuring singer Jon Secada. The Santa Claus for the day was Stephen Cramer, a member of the U.S. Army Chorus.
The president generally has a hectic time during the run-up to Christmas, with thousands of guests attending a series of White House receptions. The Bushes plan to celebrate Christmas at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, with his parents and other members of their extended family, the White House said in a news release.