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Bidens participate in National Christmas Tree lighting

US President Joe Biden and First lady Jill Biden participate in the National Christmas Tree Lighting on the White House Ellipse in Washington, DC on Thursday, November 30, 2023. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
1 of 8 | US President Joe Biden and First lady Jill Biden participate in the National Christmas Tree Lighting on the White House Ellipse in Washington, DC on Thursday, November 30, 2023. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 30 (UPI) -- President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden were part of the pageantry and celebration Thursday evening as The National Christmas Tree sparkled to life on the White House Ellipse during the official lighting ceremony.

Heavy wind gusts snapped a support cable and toppled the fully decorated 40-foot tall Norway spruce at about 1 p.m. EST, but the National Park Service had the tree standing again by about 6 p.m.

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The National Christmas Tree also blew over in 2011, buffeted by strong wind gusts, but weakened by a fungus that these types of trees are prone to, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

The first official "community Christmas celebration" in Washington dates to December 24, 1913 when the pageantry occurred on the East Plaza of the US Capitol on Christmas Eve.

"It was meant as a celebration for all of Washington, rich and poor, young and old, although a special emphasis was placed on the children," the National Park service says in a document about the history of the celebration. "The forty-five minute program, replete with angel figures in white robes, nativity tableaux, carols, and Boy Scouts waving American flags, was modeled largely on community celebrations in other cities."

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The first ceremony drew 20,000 spectators and was described as a "great success" among the people who were "finishing out their Christmas shopping."

The "community Christmas tree" morphed into the "National Christmas Tree" celebration in 1963, when the NPS erected the tree on the West lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

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