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US National Christmas Tree Lit in Washington

It is officially the Christmas season in the U.S. capital of Washington, where President Bush presided over the lighting of the National Christmas Tree Thursday evening.

With the White House in view, a rosy-cheeked youth choir sang Christmas carols as night descended upon Washington.

But their melodies aren't what drew more than 2,800 people out on this mild December evening.

They were waiting for President Bush to flip the switch that would make the Nation's Christmas Tree twinkle with brilliant lights.

As it has for more than 80 years, the tree has been a symbol of Christmas in the nation's capitol.

Following performances of traditional songs and twists on old holiday favorites, President Bush took his place behind the podium, a huge green wreath hanging behind him. After thanking Santa Claus for the good weather, the president spoke of members of the military who would celebrate the holidays far from home. "Across our country, citizens are supporting our people in uniform with their prayers and many acts of kindness," he said.

Two such citizens, both young girls, were chosen to help the president light the 12-meter tree. The girls represented a group who collected sunscreen, candy and bug spray and made cards to send to troops overseas.

As people gazed at the glowing tree, President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush joined the evening's performers and Santa Claus on stage for a sing-along.

The First Family has been gearing up for the holiday season. Just last week, the Bushes sent out their Christmas cards - more than two-million of them - to friends, family members and foreign dignitaries.