Dec. 5 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump counted down as first lady Melania Trump flipped the switch to light the National Christmas Tree on Thursday during a music-filled event at the White House Ellipse.
The president told the story of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem during remarks after the lighting.
"At Christmas, we remember this eternal truth: Every person is a beloved child of God," President Trump said. "As one grateful nation, we praise the joy of family, the blessings of freedom and the miracle of Christmas.
"On behalf of Melania and our entire family, Merry Christmas and God bless you all."
In attendance were Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and John Ratcliffe, R-Texas.
It's the first year for the Ellipse's new Christmas Tree, a 30-foot Colorado blue spruce, which was planted in President's Park in late October. The previous tree was damaged days before Christmas last year after a man climbed it.
Participating in this year's lighting ceremony were singers Jessie James Decker, Spensha Baker, Colton Dixon and Chevel Shepherd, as well as groups Max Impact, the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus, the U.S. Marine Band and West Tennessee Youth Chorus.
The event is organized by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation. President Calvin Coolidge began the National Tree Lighting tradition in 1923.