HONOLULU (AP) — President Barack Obama and his family plan to spend a quiet Christmas at their oceanfront Hawaiian vacation home, with hopes that outside events don't interrupt their holiday.
A year ago, the president's Christmas was disrupted by the attempted bombing of a plane bound for Detroit, an incident that consumed the rest of Obama's vacation. This year, the president has his sights set on a more relaxing holiday after a volatile year and a frenzied lame-duck legislative session.
The president is staying at a luxurious rented home on Kailua Bay with wife Michelle, daughters Malia and Sasha, and dog Bo. Obama took his daughters on a Christmas Eve trip to Pyramid Rock Beach, a favorite local destination of the first family.
Mrs. Obama skipped the beach so she could give some lucky children a Christmas surprise. The first lady answered calls for the "Tracking Santa" program, a Christmas tradition run by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). With help from NORAD's Santa Route Schedule, Mrs. Obama was able to tell children Santa's whereabouts as he made his Christmas Eve rounds.
The Obamas will spend Christmas Day with the president's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her family. They live on Oahu, the island where Obama was born and mostly grew up. Several of Obama's childhood friends are also in town, along with family friends from Chicago.
On the first family's Christmas Day menu: steak, roasted potatoes, green beans and pie.
Last Christmas, the president and first lady surprised troops stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, greeting service members during their holiday dinner. White House officials wouldn't say whether Obama planned to visit the troops again this Christmas.
The base is a frequent stop for Obama during his Hawaiian vacations. He often starts his day with a morning workout at the base gym, and returned there Thursday afternoon for a round of golf.
The president has no public events planned during his vacation, though he is receiving daily briefings. He is also beginning work on January's State of the Union address, and evaluating a staff review headed by interim chief of staff Pete Rouse.
Obama arrived in Hawaii on a high note, having secured victories on legislative priorities: ratification of a nuclear arms treaty with Russia and the repeal of the military's ban on gay service members. He also compromised with Republicans to extend tax cuts for all income earners, a deal that angered some liberals but won him rare bipartisan support.
Awaiting Obama in 2011 is an economy still struggling to achieve steady growth, a divided Congress and a host of Republicans ready to run for his job in the 2012 election.
The Obamas are expected to return to Washington Jan. 2.
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