Biden lights National Christmas Tree, while Roman Catholic archbishop will light the menorah

CNN Staff • Updated 5th May 2019

(CNN) — Former Vice President Joe Biden, comedian Jay Leno and retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu were among the notable names who helped light the annual National Christmas Tree Friday at the Ellipse near the White House.

The tree came from Shinola’s Detour factory in Rochester, New York. The companies new owner, Shinola-Detroit LLC, has a contract with the National Park Service to support the lighting of the tree at the National Mall. This is the first year Shinola Detour was selected to participate in the lighting ceremony.

Since its conception in 1923, the National Christmas Tree has celebrated the “spirit of Christmas” through this annual tradition at the White House. Last year, the White House helped to energize the theme by installing a new tree shaped like a mechanical Christmas tree created by an installation artist named Simone Waites.

Biden, who was sworn in as vice president in early 1969, was one of President Richard Nixon’s most trusted advisers in the Nixon administration. The former vice president returned to the National Mall on Friday after a 40-year hiatus to help light the National Christmas Tree on behalf of himself and his family.

Among the attendees were a number of prominent figures with a connection to the Christmas tree. Leno has entertained audiences on late night television for over four decades. The comedian’s work has spanned numerous TV shows, including “The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno” and “The Jay Leno Show,” as well as producing several shows and working with the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu is one of South Africa’s most iconic political figures. Tutu started his 34-year-long career as a head of a religious organization after being selected as one of the country’s first democratic leaders in 1990. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his activism.

The current President of Ford Motor Company, Jim Hackett, helped to begin the tree lighting ceremony by helping to place the tree.

“The tree lights are just as important,” Hackett said. “It symbolizes the core values of our company: to build, to innovate, to aspire, to empower, to give, to care, to take and to serve.”

The tree and all the energy used to operate it are donated to those who receive them from the National Park Service, according to a press release from the park service.

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree, which comes just before the holiday season, is an annual tradition that draws an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 visitors to the National Mall. In 2019, festivities take place on the National Mall on Thursday and Friday, November 29 and 30.

This is also the first year that the tree will be lit in daylight, instead of in the dark on Christmas Eve.

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