Obama lights National Christmas Tree in 90-year-old holiday tradition

President Obama lit the National Christmas Tree on Thursday evening, commemorating the 90th anniversary of the holiday tradition.

(Getty Images)

The president was welcomed onto the stage by television star Neil Patrick Harris and joined by first lady Michelle Obama and his two daughters.

Obama then led the crowd in counting down to the lighting of the tree, hitting a button that illuminated the 28-foot Colorado blue spruce. The tree was decorated with a large yellow star on top and baby white lights cascading vertically down the side.

But while the tree ceremony is nearly a century old, this was the first year that this spruce was used as the National Christmas Tree. The tree that had stood since 1978 was toppled in spring 2011 by high winds, and a replacement tree planted later that year died from transplant shock. The National Parks Service planted the latest Christmas tree in October of this year. The first tree, lit by President Calvin Coolidge in 1923, was a 48-foot fir.

While Harris had emceeing duties, the event featured musical performances from top recording artists including James Taylor, Jason Mraz and The Fray. Rico Rodriguez, the actor who plays Manny on ABC's "Modern Family," also sat with the first family and participated in the event.