Family lunch, some shopping, a Christmas tree lighting: President Joe Biden’s day out in Nantucket

NANTUCKET, Mass. (AP) — It wasn’t all work and no play for President Joe Biden on Friday on this picturesque Massachusetts island.

He spent much of the day in multiple briefings with national security aides, who were updating him as the first phase of hostages were released in Gaza earlier Friday. Biden then delivered brief remarks on the hostage deal, saying it is “only a start, but so far, it’s gone well.”

But then the president joined in the traditional Biden day-after-Thanksgiving festivities – lunch with his family, perusing local shops and mingling with the Nantucket crowd as the town Christmas tree is lit.

Because of the remarks on hostages, the traditional family lunch happened later than usual. But like always, it was at Brotherhood of Thieves, a cozy bar and grill that advertises itself as an “1840s whaling bar.”

Then the president’s shopping outing began.

His first stop was just a couple doors down from the restaurant at Nantucket Books, where first lady Jill Biden and daughter Ashley were already browsing.

“Can’t come without going to the bookstore,” the president said as he ducked inside. “We’ve got a tradition.”

He left about 20 minutes later, carrying a copy of “Democracy Awakening” by the historian Heather Cox Richardson, who interviewed Biden at the White House last year.

Biden then stopped at Craftmasters of Nantucket, followed by a quick stop into the Jeweler’s Gallery. He was greeted throughout his walk by cheering crowds, shouts of “happy birthday” (the president celebrated his 81st birthday on Monday) and people waving and taking photos of the first family.

Finally, the Bidens ended up at Nantucket’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony, clapping as the town crier led the countdown and the tree was illuminated with colored lights.

Biden’s outing was interrupted twice by pro-Palestine protesters, once earlier Friday as he walked to lunch and then again by a handful of demonstrators at the tree ceremony who had wiggled their way to the front of the crowd. Leaning against metal barricades and waving banners that said “Free Palestine,” the protesters chanted: “Biden, Biden, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide!”

It was unclear whether the president – who was greeting members of the children’s choir -- heard them. A local official urged the protesters to stop, noting that the community event was not a political one.

Visiting Nantucket for Thanksgiving is a decades-long tradition for the Biden family.

Joe and Jill first came here for the holiday with young sons, Beau and Hunter, in the mid-1970s. As they’ve done in past years, the Bidens are staying at an expansive compound owned by billionaire businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein, according to the White House.

Seung Min is a White House reporter.