President Donald Trump with first lady Melania Trump waves during the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at the Ellipse…
President Donald Trump, with first lady Melania Trump, waves during the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, Dec. 5, 2019.

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump helped light the National Christmas Tree on Thursday, taking part in a nearly century-old holiday tradition in the nation's capital. 

The 30-foot (9-meter) tree is decorated with 50,000 lights and 450 giant white star ornaments. The National Park Service planted the tree in President's Park, just south of the White House, in late October. 

The previous tree, a Colorado blue spruce from Virginia, was planted in 2012, but it was damaged last year when a man tried to climb it. 

It's the 97th straight year that the sitting president has participated in the lighting ceremony. 

This year's celebration included performances by Jessie James Decker, Spensha Baker, Colton Dixon, the Air Force rock band Max Impact, Chevel Shepherd, the Tucson Boys Chorus, the United States Marine Band and the West Tennessee Youth Chorus. 

The first tree lighting took place on Christmas Eve in 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge lit a 48-foot (15-meter) balsam fir in front of 3,000 spectators. 

The tree is surrounded by 56 smaller trees featuring ornaments from every state and territory and the District of Columbia.