President Bush has helped turned on the lights of America' national Christmas tree in Washington. The lighting kicks off the start of the holiday season in the nation's capital.
A children's choir from California welcomed the president and Mrs. Bush to the lighting of the national Christmas tree on a field just south of the White House.
Mr. Bush says lighting the tree is one of Washington's great holiday traditions. Preparing for Christmas at this time of war, he says Americans are praying for freedom and justice and peace on earth.
"We ask for God to watch over our men and women in uniform who are serving overseas. Their families miss them, hold a seat open for them, and pray for their safe return. America's military men and women stand for freedom and they serve the cause of peace," he said.
The president says America is a compassionate and generous land. He thanked people who contributed money and time to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina and welcomed three schoolgirls to the podium to throw the switch lighting the tree because those girls organized a program to send new backpacks and school supplies to children in hurricane-affected areas of the Gulf Coast.
Lighting the tree begins the official holiday season in Washington.
Inside the White House, the president and Mrs. Bush are preparing for the annual ritual of holiday receptions -- more than a dozen parties, sometime two a night, that this year are expected to include more than nine-thousand guests.