Christmas at The White House is magical – both for volunteer decorators and visitors. And I got to be a decorator again for the fourth time this past Thanksgiving week and never tire of doing it. People from all over the country converge on The White House on Thanksgiving week to decorate the People’s House and totally nerd out on bling and glitter.
It is always exciting entering the White House in all its glory and seeing the hard work the over 100 volunteers have put into the creating of a Holiday Extravaganza.
The commemorative booklet that everyone receives while touring, sums it up: “The things we hold sacred unite us and transcend distance, time, and even the constraints of a pandemic: faith, family, and friendship; a love of the arts, learning, and nature; gratitude, service, and community; unity and peace.”
Gifts From the Heart Theme
The theme, Gifts from the Heart, was carried out throughout the mansion with 41 Christmas trees and more than 10,000 ornaments. I particularly liked the gingerbread house/village that featured small-town replicas of stores, hospitals, and churches to celebrate the front line workers that helped us through the pandemic. Weighing hundreds of pounds, the gingerbread house is placed on the last day of decorating on the eagle pier table in the state dining room with lots of fanfare and volunteers clapping. Months in the making, the gingerbread house is phenomenal and the attention to detail is amazing. For more on White House gingerbread through the years, read White House in Gingerbread.
Blue Room – Gift of Peace and Unity
The Blue Room which I have worked on several times in the past, featured the official 18 foot White House Christmas tree that was selected from a farm in Jefferson, NC. For a good read, go to How to Produce a Grand Champion Christmas Tree.
Decorated with peace doves carrying a banner embossed with the names of the 50 states and the U.S. territories, I found the banner with my state of Maryland emblazoned on it. My team had creased the banners very carefully and then they were placed in alphabetical order on the tree.
Vermeil Room – Gift of Visual Arts
My personal favorite room this year was the Vermeil (French for gilded silver) Room, where many First Lady portraits are hung. To celebrate the Gift of Visual Arts, this room featured an unique wreath of paintbrushes that had been dipped in colorful paints. Paint swatches and primary colored ornaments decorated the trees. This room truly stood out with the colorful décor and playful touches of the art supplies.
Library – Gift of Learning
The Library was aflutter with paper butterflies and birds that were painstakingly cut out by hand and with the help of a Cricut paper machine by volunteers. Fastened with wire, the butterflies look like they were alive and in flight. Celebrating the Gift of Learning, the library was recognizing new ways that educators had connected with students during the pandemic.
China Room – Gift of Friendship and Sharing
The China Room was like a flower garden with its vases of flowers stacked down the table and on the mantel. Celebrating the Gift of Friendship and Sharing, the small wreaths on the chair backs featured intertwined hands symbolizing friendship.
State Dining Room – Gift of Family
The State Dining Room celebrates family, and the trees are hung with photographs of First Families, past and present. I made many of the bows that the picture frames were hung with on the tree. It was interesting to see the really old photos too, some from the twenties.
Green Room – The Gift of Nature
My favorite room this year was the Green Room, and that is where I spent most of my time working with my team, called appropriately – Nature. We wired purple ornament balls on a chicken wire frame to create large purple trees for each window. Then flower embellishments were added as accents with green amaranthus gracefully hanging and purple orchids. Honoring the Gifts of Nature, the elements of this room were lush and natural.
The mantelpiece was a masterpiece of layered greenery, coiled vine, hanging amaranthus, hand tied bouquets of grasses, dried fungi, and fresh purple and pink orchids in water tubes. I really enjoyed working on this!
East Room – Gift of Gratitude
Celebrating the Gift of Gratitude, the East Room displayed hand written notes of thank you cards and other notes. Displaying the Neapolitan creche, with over 40 different figurines, this masterpiece catches your eye as soon as you enter. The largest room in the White House, the First Lady made a short speech here thanking all the volunteers for their service.
Red Room – The Gift of the Performing Arts
Celebrating the Gift of the Performing Arts, the Red Room displays dance shoes and musical instruments against the rich red walls. There were even toe shoes hanging from the mantel and the tree, filled with greens!
The First Lady personally thanked us for helping decorate the White House for over a week of intense crafting, floral designing, and just plain hard work of carrying boxes. What a wonderful experience!