First Family Lights National Christmas Tree | NBC 10 Philadelphia
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First Family Lights National Christmas Tree

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    The Obama family lit the 2016 National Christmas Tree Thursday evening, quickly counting down to the illumination of the bright tree of white lights with ribbons of gold.

    Actress Reese Witherspoon hosted the ceremony, which featured the First Family and celebrity guests on the White House Ellipse.

    Also at the ceremony: actress and singer Bellamy Young of ABC's "Scandal;" Crosby, Stills and Nash; Fall Out Boy; Trombone Shorty; Andra Day and Miss Piggy.

    A special Park Ranger helped light this year's tree: Betty Reid Soskin, who, at 94, is the oldest National Park Service Ranger in the United States. Soskin carried with her a picture of her great-grandmother, who was born into slavery in 1846 and died when she was 102.

    Last year, the Park Service gave out tickets for 3,000 seats and 14,000 standing-room spots through the lottery.

    Security for this year's ceremony was tight, and several roads in the area were closed.

    Witherspoon won an Academy Award for her performance in "Walk the Line." Her other credits include "Legally Blonde" and "Wild." She's also no stranger to White House events -- in 2010, she read stories to children attending the White House Easter Egg Roll.

    Tickets for the tree lighting were distributed via online lottery.