President Joe Biden speaks Wednesday night at the 100th National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony near the White House. Photo by Ting Shen/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 1 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and the First Family joined Vice President Kamala Harris and a host of celebrities in lighting the National Christmas Tree Wednesday night during a holiday ceremony near the White House.
The 27-foot white fir came to life on the Ellipse after President Biden led the festive crowd in a countdown before host LL Cool J pressed a button that lit the tree, marking the 100th anniversary of the occasion.
"For 100 years, Americans have gathered at the White House to celebrate the holiday season with the lighting of the National Christmas Tree," President Biden told the crowd. "Through seasons and of struggle and strife, progress and prosperity, for a century and counting, we've come together in a spirit of unity and joy, hope and light -- and so we do today, with an eternal spirit of our nation as well."
In his speech, Biden emphasized American unity and called on the nation to "reflect on our blessings ... despite our differences."
"We're the only nation in the world that comes out of every crisis we've encountered stronger than we went in. That's 'We the People,'" he said, recalling the theme for this year's holiday decorations at the White House unveiled by the first lady earlier this week.
"'We the People,' the first words of our Constitution," President Biden continued. "The beating heart of our democracy," "An enduring reminder that America has many, many strengths, but our greatest strength is America standing united."
"Merry Christmas, America!" Jill Biden exclaimed after the president's speech.
The ceremony also featured musical performances by Joss Stone, Shania Twain, Ariana DeBose, and the Marine Corps Band, among others. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff accompanied the vice president.
The National Christmas Tree is 51 feet shorter than the U.S. Capitol Christmas tree -- a 78-foot-tall red spruce -- that was lit the night before on the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
The lighting of the National Christmas Tree has been a holiday tradition in Washington since President Calvin Coolidge's time in office 100 years ago.
In the 1920s, Coolidge became the first president to dedicate a national holiday tree on the Ellipse - a 48-foot fir decked with 2,500 twinkling bulbs.