WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden paid a surprise Christmas Eve visit on Friday to a children’s hospital in Washington, where he offered holiday greetings to patients and their families and showed off a photo of the new first puppy, Commander.

Biden accompanied first lady Jill Biden to Children’s National Hospital in Washington. The hospital visit is an annual holiday tradition for first ladies, but Biden’s visit marked the first by a sitting president.

When the Bidens arrived in the room, a dozen kids sat at tables made luminary lanterns. Beau, a boy from Beau, held his lantern up for the president. Biden said that he once had Beau as a son and now has Beau as a grandson.

First lady Jill Biden and President Joe Biden greet patients at Children's National Hospital in Washington on Dec. 24, 2021.

“You’re bringing us some joy,” Biden told the children.

“My grandson loves laser tag,” he said to one boy.

Biden gave another boy a photo from his cellphone of Commander, the 3-month-old purebred German shepherd. He suggested that the child bring the dog to the hospital during the summer.

The first lady observed that her pet had stolen her slipper on Friday morning.

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Peter Neal, fiancé of President Joe Biden's daughter Naomi Biden, plays with Commander, a purebred German shepherd puppy and the newest member of President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden's family, on Dec. 24, 2021, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington.

After visiting with the children, the Bidens sat in front of a Christmas tree, where the first lady read “Frozen Olaf’s Night Before Christmas.” Biden joked that he reads the book at night before bed, along with his briefing books.

Later, the Bidens stopped in Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood to check out a Christmas tree dedicated to Jill Biden and other educators.

Biden placed the official White House Christmas ornament on the 17-foot tree, which sits on a street corner outside the Italian restaurant Floriana and has been decorated for the past few years with a theme that honors well-known figures in the community.

Last year’s tree paid tribute to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who stopped by for a visit. Two years earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came by to check out the tree, which had a photo cutout of her at the top instead of a star.

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President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden pose for a photo with Dito Sevilla near a holiday tree at the Italian restaurant Floriana in Washington, on Dec. 24, 2021. Since 2012 outside the restaurant, a holiday tree with a theme has been decorated and this year's tree has been decorated with images first lady Jill Biden and other educators.

“Keep the faith,” Biden said when asked what message he has for Americans.

Upon returning to the White House, the Bidens spoke with several children who called into the federal government’s official “Santa Tracker,” which is run by the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

They will spend their first Christmas together as first ladies and president of the United States at the White House. They also will eschew a family tradition of traveling to the U.S. Virgin Islands for the New Year’s holiday, a trip they have made with family nearly every year since 2008.

Biden’s brother James owns property on Water Island, and Biden often has spent the week there or on St. Croix. Instead, the Biden’s will spend a few days between Christmas and New Year’s in Delaware.

Michael Collins is the White House correspondent. Follow him @mcollinsNEWS.

Contributing to The Associated Press

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First lady Jill Biden displays a lantern made by a patient at Children's National Hospital as part of a winter craft project as she and President Joe Biden visit patients in Washington on Dec. 24, 2021.

Source: USAToday.com

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