Believe! Hundreds of empty seats are pictured at Trump's Christmas tree lighting ceremony in DC compared to Obama's first switch on where there was a packed house

  • The first family joined together in the nation's capital Thursday to light the National Christmas tree?
  • The president and first lady stood alongside hosts Dean Cain and Kathie Lee Gifford for the special event
  • In attendance were Donald Trump Jr., Tiffany Trump, Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner along with their three kids - Arabella, Joseph and Theodore
  • Photo shared to Twitter by ABC reporter highlighted the numerous empty seats at the event?
  • Journalist Steve Rudin?noted that the ceremony was 'beautiful', but it was 'hard not to notice the empty seats'
  • The image paled in comparison to the crowds former president Barack Obama drew at his first tree lighting in 2009?
  • The lighting of the National Christmas tree is in its 95th year, making it one of the country's oldest traditions?

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump kicked off the holiday season in the nation's capital in front of a sparse crowd at Thursday's lighting of the National Christmas?tree.?

The president shared on Twitter that he was 'looking very much forward' to lighting the tree 'all year long', and probably expected a huge turn out for the ceremony.?

But a photo shared to Twitter by Washington, DC longtime journalist Steve Rudin captured the dozens of empty seats while the event was underway.?

In his tweet, Rudin noted that the ceremony was 'beautiful', but it was 'hard not to notice the empty seats'.??

The image paled in comparison to the crowds former president Barack Obama drew at his first tree lighting in 2009.?

Soon enough, the photo went viral with many on social media comparing the empty seats to the lackluster crowd at Trump's inauguration in January. Trump had claimed that up to 1.5 million attended his inauguration on January 20 but photos released by the National Parks Service showed a much smaller crowd than those at Obama's two inaugurations.?

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer had laimed that news media photos of the inauguration were 'intentionally framed in a way...to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall.'??

And this year it was the First Lady alone who pressed the button to switch the tree on. Back in 2009 the entire first family - Barack, Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia pressed the button together.?

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Seasons greetings: President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump kicked off the holiday season in the nation's capital in front of a sparse crowd at Thursday's lighting of the National Christmas tree

Seasons greetings: President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump kicked off the holiday season in the nation's capital in front of a sparse crowd at Thursday's lighting of the National Christmas tree

It's not hugeeeeee:?The president shared on Twitter that he was 'looking very much forward' to lighting the tree 'all year long', and probably expected a huge turn out for the ceremony. But a photo (above) shared to Twitter by Washington, DC longtime journalist Steve Rudin captured the dozens of empty seats while the event was underway

It's not hugeeeeee:?The president shared on Twitter that he was 'looking very much forward' to lighting the tree 'all year long', and probably expected a huge turn out for the ceremony. But a photo (above) shared to Twitter by Washington, DC longtime journalist Steve Rudin captured the dozens of empty seats while the event was underway

Packed to the rafters: The crowds at the tree lighting in 2009 when Obama welcomed the festive season. This photo is taken almost from the same angle as the one above with the stage at the far right

Packed to the rafters: The crowds at the tree lighting in 2009 when Obama welcomed the festive season. This photo is taken almost from the same angle as the one above with the stage at the far right

In his tweet, Rudin noted that the ceremony was 'beautiful', but it was 'hard not to notice the empty seats'

In his tweet, Rudin noted that the ceremony was 'beautiful', but it was 'hard not to notice the empty seats'

For the special event that also included the Pageant of Peace ceremony, the first family was joined by hosts Dean Cain and Kathie Lee Gifford on the White House Ellipse

For the special event that also included the Pageant of Peace ceremony, the first family was joined by hosts Dean Cain and Kathie Lee Gifford on the White House Ellipse

To light the tree, Trump counted down from 10 with his wife, Melania, who pushed a button to set the tree aglow with golden lights and silver stars

To light the tree, Trump counted down from 10 with his wife, Melania, who pushed a button to set the tree aglow with golden lights and silver stars

The president and first lady took the stage for the?the special event that also included the Pageant of Peace ceremony and was joined by hosts Dean Cain and Kathie Lee Gifford on the White House Ellipse.

Among those in attendance were Donald Trump Jr. and his family, Tiffany Trump and?Ivanka Trump. The president's oldest daughter, who was sporting an Altuzarra's AW17 collection $3,000 Bellasio collarless double-breasted white wool coat, brought along her young children - Arabella, Joseph and Theodore - and husband Jared Kushner.?

The program kicked off with?Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke introducing the president while speaking from the podium.

'Merry Christmas, America,' he said, referring to the glowing tree behind him as 'another iconic image of this blessed holiday,' along with nativity scenes, presents, and cookies for Santa.?

He called Trump 'a man who loves our parks, loves our military, and loves our country. The man who brought `Merry Christmas' back to our nation's capital, and you did, sir.'

Trump then spoke for five minutes, and discussed the 'incredible national Christmas tree' while noting that the tradition goes back nearly a century.?

'The weather we have is the best it's been in 25 years. In fact I said is it always like this. The secretary said it hasn't been like this for a very long time, so we're very lucky.'

Lighting up the White House:?Trump spoke for five minutes and discussed the 'incredible national Christmas tree' while noting that the tradition goes back nearly a century

Lighting up the White House:?Trump spoke for five minutes and discussed the 'incredible national Christmas tree' while noting that the tradition goes back nearly a century

Flashback: The 2009 tree lighting with the Obamas shows the crowd above as the first family take to the stage

Flashback: The 2009 tree lighting with the Obamas shows the crowd above as the first family take to the stage

Switch on:?Melania looked flawless for the occasion while sporting an elegant red Chanel coat that matched the president's bright red tie

Switch on:?Melania looked flawless for the occasion while sporting an elegant red Chanel coat that matched the president's bright red tie

Melania pushed the button to light up the tree in stark contrast to the whole first family putting their hands on the button together to light it in 2009. Above former first family Barack Obama, accompanied by wife Michelle and their daughters Malia and Sasha

Melania pushed the button to light up the tree in stark contrast to the whole first family putting their hands on the button together to light it in 2009. Above former first family Barack Obama, accompanied by wife Michelle and their daughters Malia and Sasha

Pattern?: Soon enough, the photo of the audience at the tree lighting ceremony went viral with many on social media comparing the empty seats to the crowd at Trump's inauguration in January (above)

Pattern?: Soon enough, the photo of the audience at the tree lighting ceremony went viral with many on social media comparing the empty seats to the crowd at Trump's inauguration in January (above)

Obama's 2009 inauguration crowd
A sea of supporters: Obama's 2013 inauguration crowd is seen above

A sea of supporters: Obama's 2009 (seen left) and 2013 (seen right) inauguration crowds are seen above

Donald Trump Jr. was joined by his wife Vanessa and their family to watch performances during the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony

Donald Trump Jr. was joined by his wife Vanessa and their family to watch performances during the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony

Ivanka Trump was also in attendance for the family friendly event with her husband Jared Kushner and their three children -?Arabella (center), Joseph (right) and Theodore (carried by Jared)

Ivanka Trump was also in attendance for the family friendly event with her husband Jared Kushner and their three children -?Arabella (center), Joseph (right) and Theodore (carried by Jared)

The mother-of-three seemed to be in a happy mood while holding her adorable son Theodore and ?chatting to her sister Tiffany

The mother-of-three seemed to be in a happy mood while holding her adorable son Theodore and ?chatting to her sister Tiffany

The busy mom who has spent time recently traveling abroad as White House senior advisor to her father was sporting an ?Altuzarra's AW17 collection $3,000?Bellasio collarless double-breasted wool coat

The busy mom who has spent time recently traveling abroad as White House senior advisor to her father was sporting an ?Altuzarra's AW17 collection $3,000?Bellasio collarless double-breasted wool coat

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The president's youngest daughter Tiffany Trump (above next to her brother-in-law Jared Kushner) joined her siblings for the event

The president's youngest daughter Tiffany Trump (above next to her brother-in-law Jared Kushner) joined her siblings for the event

Trump's daughters seemed to happy while attending their first official White House tree lighting ceremony

Trump's daughters seemed to happy while attending their first official White House tree lighting ceremony

He noted that President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation marking Christmas as a national holiday.

'For Christians this is a holy season, the celebration of the birth of our lord and savior Jesus Christ,' the president said.

'The Christmas story begins 2000 years ago with a mother, a father, their baby son, and the most extraordinary gift of all, the gift of God's love for all of humanity. Whatever our beliefs we know that the birth of Jesus Christ and the story of this incredibly life forever changed the course of human history.?

'There's hardly an aspect of our lives today that his life has not touched – art, music, culture, law and our respect for the sacred dignity of every person, everywhere in the world. …. Each one of us is a child of God.??

The lighting of the National Christmas tree is in its 95th year, easily making it one of the country's oldest traditions

The lighting of the National Christmas tree is in its 95th year, easily making it one of the country's oldest traditions

But this year's event was the first for the Trump family since the president took office in January

But this year's event was the first for the Trump family since the president took office in January

Jared Kushner also greeted House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana who nearly died earlier this year after being shot during a baseball game

Jared Kushner also greeted House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana who nearly died earlier this year after being shot during a baseball game

To watch performances for the evening, the president and first lady were joined by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (second left)

To watch performances for the evening, the president and first lady were joined by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (second left)

Wynonna Judd performed during the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at the Ellipse

Wynonna Judd performed during the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony at the Ellipse

The Beach Boys also hit the stage at the event in President's Park on Thursday night

The Beach Boys also hit the stage at the event in President's Park on Thursday night

Jack Wagner also performed during the special ceremony at the White House Thursday night

Jack Wagner also performed during the special ceremony at the White House Thursday night

'That is the true source of joy this time of the year. That is what makes every Christmas merry…. We are called to serve one another, to love one another, and to pursue peace in our hearts and all throughout the world.'??

He thanked those serving the needy throughout the year and during this season, and military and law enforcement, and teachers and pastor.?

'And especially tonight I thank America's families... The family is the bedrock of American life... We ask for God's blessing for our families, for our nation,' Trump said.?

At the outset of his comments, President Trump noted that people wait with anticipation all year for Christmas.

'Now as the president of the United States, it's my tremendous honor to finally wish America and the world a very Merry Christmas,' Trump said, and the audience cheered.??

'We pray that our country will be a place where every child knows a home filled with love, a community rich with hope, and a nation blessed with faith.'??

Us The Duo featuring Michael and Carissa Alvarado performed Thursday night at the White House

Us The Duo featuring Michael and Carissa Alvarado performed Thursday night at the White House

The US Navy band performs during the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting held by the National Park Service at the White House Ellipse

The US Navy band performs during the 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting held by the National Park Service at the White House Ellipse

Trump had a few moments to speak with Zinke during the program on Thursday night

Trump had a few moments to speak with Zinke during the program on Thursday night

The president also gave the camera a thumbs up while his wife sat alongside him beaming with a wide smile

The president also gave the camera a thumbs up while his wife sat alongside him beaming with a wide smile

The president and his wife seemed to be having a great time at their first Christmas Tree lighting ceremony

The president and his wife seemed to be having a great time at their first Christmas Tree lighting ceremony

His daughters also seemed to be enjoying the night at the White House on the Ellipse

His daughters also seemed to be enjoying the night at the White House on the Ellipse

To light the tree, Trump counted down from 10 with his wife, Melania, who pushed a button to set the tree aglow with golden lights and silver stars.????????

A number of celebrities also performed at the event including?Boys II Bow Ties, Craig Campbell, Jack Wagner, Mannheim Steamroller, The Beach Boys, The Texas Tenors, Us The Duo, Wynonna and the U.S. Navy Band, led by Emmy-nominated music director Steve Gibson.?

The lighting of the National Christmas tree is in its 95th year, easily making it one of the country's oldest traditions.?

President Calvin Coolidge first lit the tree on Christmas Eve in 1923 while on the Ellipse in front of more than 3,000 people.?

The president took to Twitter to share a video clip from the program and wished everyone a 'MERRY CHRISTMAS'

The president took to Twitter to share a video clip from the program and wished everyone a 'MERRY CHRISTMAS'

In a second tweet, Trump also discussed Jesus Christ and shared another video from the event

In a second tweet, Trump also discussed Jesus Christ and shared another video from the event

Since then, every president has carried on the special tradition.?

But this year's event was the first for the Trump family since the president took office in January.

The elaborate decorations on stage were perfect for the occasion.?

The stage was covered in red carpet and decorated generously with poinsettias, and boxes stacked like Christmas presents, wrapped in red and white paper – designs included waves, reindeer, and paisley – and with golden ribbon and bows.?

Trump took to Twitter after the event and wrote: 'Today is a day that I’ve been looking very much forward to ALL YEAR LONG. It is one that you have heard me speak about many times before. Now, as President of the United States, it is my tremendous honor to finally wish America and the world, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!'

In a second tweet, he said: 'The Christmas Story begins 2,000 years ago with a mother, a father, their baby son and the most extraordinary gift of all—the gift of God’s love for all of humanity.

Whatever our beliefs, we know that the birth of Jesus Christ and the story of his life...'?

The program is set to air on the Hallmark Channel on December 4. ?

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