Obama and family usher in Christmas with lighting of national tree

US President Barack Obama (centre) dances with participants during the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama (centre) dances with participants during the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US First Lady Michelle Obama (right) and little league baseball pitcher Mo'ne Davis high-five after reading The Night Before Christmas during the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the National Mall's Ellipse in Washington, DC o
US First Lady Michelle Obama (right) and little league baseball pitcher Mo'ne Davis high-five after reading The Night Before Christmas during the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the National Mall's Ellipse in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014 . -- PHOTO: AFP
US President Barack Obama (second from right) sits with daughter Sasha (left), mother-in-law Marian Robinson (right) and actor Tom Hanks as they attend the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC
US President Barack Obama (second from right) sits with daughter Sasha (left), mother-in-law Marian Robinson (right) and actor Tom Hanks as they attend the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama smiles on stage next to a man dressed as Santa Claus after he officially lights the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama smiles on stage next to a man dressed as Santa Claus after he officially lights the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
First lady Michelle Obama (second from right) sings with her daughter Sasha and actors Tom Hanks (left) and Rita Wilson (second from left) after the official lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, D
First lady Michelle Obama (second from right) sings with her daughter Sasha and actors Tom Hanks (left) and Rita Wilson (second from left) after the official lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama speaks after lighting the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama speaks after lighting the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama waves to the audience during the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US President Barack Obama waves to the audience during the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting on the Ellipse near the White House in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
US First Lady Michelle Obama looks to her daughters Malia (left) and Sasha singing during the annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
US First Lady Michelle Obama looks to her daughters Malia (left) and Sasha singing during the annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Actor Tom Hanks kisses US First Lady Michelle Obama during the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the National Mall's Ellipse  in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Actor Tom Hanks kisses US First Lady Michelle Obama during the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the National Mall's Ellipse  in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
US President Barack Obama speaks during the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the National Mall's Ellipse in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014 . -- PHOTO: AFP 
US President Barack Obama speaks during the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the National Mall's Ellipse in Washington, DC on Dec 4, 2014 . -- PHOTO: AFP 

WASHINGTON (REUTERSs) - President Barack Obama and his family presided over the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Thursday in an annual ritual near the White House that featured musical performances from singers Patti LaBelle and Steve Miller.

Obama, who was joined by his wife, daughters, and mother-in-law, led the countdown to the lighting of the tree and thanked US troops who would be away from their families over the holiday season.

"This Christmas, we count our blessings and we give thanks to the men and women of our military who help make those blessings possible," he said. "And as we hold our loved ones tight, let's remember the military families whose loved ones are far from home. They are our heroes, and they deserve our heartfelt gratitude and our wholehearted support."

The event was hosted by actor Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, an actress and singer. Other artists included singer NE-YO, pop performers Nico & Vinz, singing group The Tenors, and country singer Chely Wright.