WASHINGTON (AP) — Ringing in the holidays for the first time from Washington, President Donald Trump lit the National Christmas Tree Thursday evening, wishing the country “a Merry Christmas” — as he vowed to do during his campaign.
Taking part in the annual ritual, Trump counted down from 10 before his wife, Melania, pushed a button to set the tree aglow with golden lights and silver stars.
“Today’s a day that I’ve been looking very much forward to all year long,” said Trump. “And now, as the president of the United States, it’s my tremendous honor to finally wish America and the world a very merry Christmas.”
During his campaign, Trump had promised that, when he was elected, people would be saying “Merry Christmas again,” a reference to what he characterized as the country’s obsession with political correctness. In Trump’s view, the move toward the use of the more inclusive “happy holidays” phrase minimized the Christian celebration.
Trump was introduced by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who called Trump “a man who loves our parks, loves our military, and loves our country. The man who brought ‘Merry Christmas’ back to our nation’s capital — and you did, sir.”
Speaking from behind a bullet-proof glass enclosure, Trump also bragged about the mild weather, which hovered in the mid-50s, and compared himself to President Ulysses S. Grant, who signed legislation making Christmas a federal holiday.
“I sort of feel we’re doing that again,” he said to an audience that included many of his family members.
The program, which will air Monday on the Hallmark Channel, was hosted by Kathie Lee Gifford and actor Dean Cain and featured performances by the Beach Boys, Jack Wagner, Wynonna Judd, Craig Campbell and others. It was a less high-profile lineup than last year, when the performers included Kelly Clarkson, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, Marc Anthony, Yolanda Adams, The Lumineers, James Taylor and Chance the Rapper.
This year marks the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting. The tradition began in 1923 with President Calvin Coolidge and takes place in President’s Park, just south of the White House.