UK & World News
Obama Family Lights National Christmas Tree
President Barack Obama has officially kicked off the holiday season in Washington by lighting the National Christmas Tree with his family.
The president, alongside First Lady Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha, flicked the switch for the 90th annual tree lighting ceremony near the White House before a host of performers took to the stage.
In a speech after the ceremony in the US capital, Mr Obama paid tribute to Americans affected by Superstorm Sandy in October.
He said: "It was planted just days before Hurricane Sandy and it made it through the storm in once piece."
"We know that some of our neighbours to the north saw a more ruthless and destructive Sandy," Obama said, before praising the "heroism and perseverance," of ordinary people caught in the monster storm.
The storm flooded the subway system in New York, damaged tens of thousands of houses on the northeastern US coast, knocked out electricity across a wide area and closed stores and businesses.
More than 110 people were killed and damage from the storm is expected to amount to more than $60bn (£37bn).
This year's giant blue spruce tree was transplanted in October on the Ellipse, a park that lies between the White House and the National Mall.
The previous tree died from transplant shock after just a year.
Before that, a tree that stood for more than 30 years was destroyed by winds in February 2011.
The president joked that the demise of the last two National Christmas trees in recent years was symptomatic of political life in the US capital.
"Just goes to show you that nobody's job is safe here in Washington," he said.
The president was joined at the ceremony by How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris, who hosted the event.
Performers included singers Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Ledisi, Jason Mraz, James Taylor and the band The Fray.