12/01/2011 10:41 pm ET

Obama Family Lights Up 89th National Christmas Tree

WASHINGTON -- The Christmas spirit officially swept into the nation's capital Thursday night as hundreds of families and onlookers assembled on the Ellipse to witness President Obama and his family light the national Christmas tree.

Standing at just 26 feet tall, this year's tree is noticeably smaller than the previous official Christmas tree, which was brought down in a February storm after 30 years in service.

"But we all know that this tradition is much larger than any single tree," Obama reminded the crowd in his address. "And tonight we gather here again, not simply to light some decorations, but to honor a story that lights the world."

The president urged Americans to help those in need this season before welcoming soldiers home for the holidays and thanking those still overseas for their service. At the end of his address, he invited the first lady and their two daughters on stage to help light up the four-point golden star and multicolor lights adorning the National Christmas tree.

With its LED lighting technology, this year's national Christmas tree is the most energy effective tree in the tradition's history.

But energy efficiency wasn't the only thing making this year’s tree lighting the greenest one yet: Kermit the Frog made an appearance, helping first lady Michelle Obama read "Twas The Night Before Christmas."

The night also featured live performances from acts including Big Time Rush and One Republic and was hosted by late night talk show personality Carson Daly. The event was scheduled to feature a performance by will.i.am, but the Black Eyed Peas star did not make an appearance.

The 89th lighting of the national Christmas tree was nearly a politics-free night for the Obamas as they celebrated the Christmas spirit among fellow Americans -- until that charming amphibious lead of the new "Muppets" movie discussed his beau's wish list with none other than St. Nicholas.

"I got Miss Piggy's wish list," Kermit told Santa Claus, revealing it was over 250 pages long. "And that doesn't include all the subcommittees and markups."

National Christmas Tree Lighting 2011