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President Obama officially ushered in the holiday season Thursday, lighting the National Christmas tree for the eighth and final time.
Obama was joined at the annual tree lighting ceremony by First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughter, Sasha. The holiday celebration was hosted by actress Eva Longoria and featured a lineup of performances that included gospel singer Yolanda Adams, Chance the Rapper, The Lumineers and James Taylor.
“It’s like a Christmas edition of Lollapalooza,” Obama quipped.
Michelle Obama continued the tradition of reading her favorite holiday story “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” This year, she was joined onstage by Olympian Simone Manuel who made history in Rio by becoming the first African-American to win a gold medal in swimming.
But it was the President’s final holiday message to American people that resonated most. Obama said the message of the Christmas season — one that encourages people to look out for one another, forgive and love their enemies and lead by example — is one that unites Americans of all faiths and backgrounds.
“It’s a message of unity and a message of decency and a message of hope that never goes out of style — and it’s one that we all need very much today,” he said.
The 2016 tree lighting ceremony marked the 94th annual lighting of the National Christmas Tree, according to the National Park Service.
Audience members also used the ceremony to celebrate the president’s legacy, sporadically shouting “Thanks Obama!” and chanting “four more years!” Obama closed the ceremony by thanking the American people for the honor of serving as their President.
“Before we leave tonight, I just want to express what an incredible honor it’s been to serve this nation and to feel it’s warmth and to feel it’s generosity and how our family has been awed by Americas goodness,” he said.
The Hallmark Channel will air the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Monday, Dec. 5.