Surrounded by celebrity performers and characters from the North Pole, the Obama family led a countdown and lighted the National Christmas Tree tonight on the Ellipse, just south of the White House. Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha helped President Obama press a button to light the tree, an annual tradition since the 1920s. "I'm technologically challenged and I might not get this right," the president joked. "Everybody has got to help me out here."
Performers including singer Sheryl Crow, hip hop artist Common and "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks dazzled the crowd, bundled in coats and scarves. "I told Sasha we're not on American Idol," the president said at one point. The Obama family and Vice President Joe Biden and his grandchildren watched from seats beside the stage, behind a clear protective shielding.