Nation Digest: First family's Christmas Day began with trip to the gym

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Christmas Day began with trip to the gym

President Obama and his family celebrated Christmas in Hawaii on Friday, but with their own twists.

The president and his wife, Michelle, started their day at 6:40 a.m. by going to the gym -- a feat unimaginable to most parents of young children eager to open presents on Christmas morning -- and returned more than an hour later.

The first couple did not swap presents, aides said. And the Obamas did not attend church services, instead spending the day at the oceanfront home they are renting in Kailua, on the island of Oahu.

Later on, the children -- along with Obama's sister, Maya Soetero-Ng, her husband, Konrad Ng, and their children -- were to open gifts. A meal of roast beef and potatoes was to follow, aides said.

Michelle Obama told patients and staff at Washington Hospital Center this week that the children, Sasha and Malia, had gotten their father something related to sports, but refused to say more for fear of spoiling the surprise. Sasha chimed in: "It's something he likes!"

Obama began his 11-day vacation on Thursday afternoon, settling in for his longest break since becoming president and his first trip back to his childhood home since taking office. Far from the headaches of governance, with a five-hour time difference between him and Washington, the president has no planned events on his schedule and, apart from the gym excursion, barely left the residence after he arrived.

In mid-afternoon, the president and first lady visited the Marine Corps base near their vacation home and shook hands with troops for about half an hour.

News of an attempted airline attack in Detroit [story, A1] sent White House officials traveling with the president scrambling Friday, but it did not change the president's schedule. White House spokesman Bill Burton said the event "certainly had an impact" on the family's holiday, but added: "As president, he is always 'on,' to a certain extent."

-- Anne E. Kornblut

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