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Bush Lights US National Christmas Tree

The president and Mrs. Bush took part in the lighting of America's National Christmas Tree. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

Carolers from Washington's National Cathedral and the St. Alban's Christmas Choir opened the annual tree lighting ceremony.

An audience of several thousand people in a field south of the White House was bundled tight against below freezing temperatures as were most of the performers, including Air Force Master Sergeant Ryan Carson.

"How are we doing tonight DC? Come on, I know it is cold, so we got to warm it up out here. Run, run, Rudolph. Santa has got to make it to town. Santa don't you worry. Tell him he can take the freeway down," he said.

The tree lighting is one of many holiday events the president and Mrs. Bush attend on top of hosting nearly a month of receptions at the White House which is expected to receive more than 60,000 guests during the season.

President Bush says the holidays are a time to thank those who help neighbors in need and express the nation's gratitude for the men and women of the armed forces. "Many will spend this Christmas stationed in distant and dangerous lands, far from homes and from the families they love. They are never far from our thoughts and they are always in our prayers. America honors their sacrifice and that of their families who also serve our nation. We are grateful for all they do to ensure that we live in the freedom our Creator intended for every man, woman, and child on the face of this earth," he said.

This year's Christmas theme at the White House is Holidays in America's National Parks. The six-meter tree in the Blue Room is decorated with 347 ornaments hand decorated by artists with designs representing the nation's memorials, seashores, historic sites, monuments, and national parks