President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Trump lights National Christmas Tree in holiday tradition

December 05, 2019 - 5:43 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump helped light the National Christmas Tree on Thursday, taking part in a nearly century-old holiday tradition in the nation’s capital.

The lighthearted honor for presidents, going back to Calvin Coolidge, came on an otherwise difficult day in Trump's presidency.

Hours before the ceremony, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Democratic chairmen to bring forward impeachment charges against Trump. House Democrats say Trump abused his presidential powers by pressuring Ukraine’s president to open an investigation into Trump's potential 2020 Democratic rival Joe Biden and his son.

The 30-foot (9-meter) tree is decorated with 50,000 lights and 450 giant white star ornaments. The National Park Service planted the tree in President's Park, just south of the White House, in late October.

The previous tree, a Colorado blue spruce from Virginia, was planted in 2012, but it was damaged last year when a man tried to climb it.

It’s the 97th straight year that the sitting president has participated in the lighting ceremony.

This year’s celebration included performances by Jessie James Decker, Spensha Baker, Colton Dixon, the Air Force rock band Max Impact, Chevel Shepherd, Tucson Boys Chorus, the United States Marine Band and West Tennessee Youth Chorus.

The first tree lighting took place on Christmas Eve in 1923, when Coolidge lit a 48-foot (15-meter) balsam fir in front of 3,000 spectators.

The tree is surrounded by 56 smaller trees featuring ornaments from every state and territory and the District of Columbia.

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