President Obama and his family skipped church this Christmas, despite issuing a call last week for Christians to remember the religious aspect of the holiday and not overdo the commercial. But he also spent a good amount of time with members of the armed forces serving in Hawaii, invoking the spirit of Christmas, even if not within a church.
The Obamas had attended church on Christmas each of the last three years they were in Hawaii.
Ten days ago while taping the annual “Christmas in Washington” special, Obama spoke of the birth of Christ, asking Americans not to forsake Jesus as they exchanged presents.
Every year, we mark the holiday season with celebrations and good cheer. And I should remind my girls that I like getting Christmas presents as much as anybody. (Laughter.) But this is also a time to remember the story of a child born to two faithful travelers on a holy night, long ago.
Obama played golf until late Afternoon Tuesday and then spent much of the holiday with his family. Christmas morning, the Obamas “gathered around to open up their Christmas gifts and sing carols,” according to the pool report.
Wednesday afternoon Obama visited with the troops.
From the pool report:
President Obama spoke to about 580 troops and their families assembled around the tables and booths of Anderson Hall, a dining facility at Marine Corps Base Hawaii known informally as “Chow Hall.” Most of the troops are Marines, but the event was open to members of the Army, Navy and Air Force as well. Anybody who is active duty service in Hawaii was allowed to attend. The troops ate Christmas dinner earlier in the afternoon and were just clearing their trays before Obama arrived.
Obama, with wife Michelle standing at his side, spoke at about 4:30 p.m. local from a small square stage with red carpet that’s raised about one foot off the ground. The wall behind him was covered with wallpaper showing historical Marine Corps and Navy photographs and memorabilia.
The president, who held a piece of paper with notes, wore a blue short sleeved shirt and dark khaki pants, while the first lady wore a black skirt and sleeveless black and white top.
Obama said that he knows “a lot of our friends and comrades” are raising their families here while others are serving in Afghanistan and other places. Obama said he called 10 service members who were in Afghanistan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Obama said, “It was just a sampling of the incredible sacrificed a that all of you and your families make every single day. Michelle and I know that we would not enjoy the freedoms we do if it weren’t for the incredible dedication and professionalism and work that you do. The least we can do is just let you all know we’re grateful to you.”
Obama added, “We hope that the mess has done right by you and that the food is pretty good.”
Obama singled out several regiments, battalions and patrol units by name and those in attendance hooted and cheered when their group was called.
“Thank you so much for your great work,” Obama said. “We hope all of you have a Mele Kaliminaka and we hope you guys have a great new year as well.”
The drop by was hardly pro forma. Obama spent more than two hours taking photos with service members and their families.