Celebrating Christmas in America’s House

The First Family is celebrating the White House Christmas with an “American Treasures” themed display. Each year, the First Lady designs the trees, greenery, and other decorations that will be displayed throughout the holiday season. The decorations will “display the many splendors found across our great Nation,” says the White House of the 2018 Christmas display.

The 2017 theme, “Time-Honored Traditions,” also paid homage to the rich traditions of both the White House and the United States. This year’s theme highlights the diversity and identity of regions of America.

The Controversial Red Trees

In a video tour, First Lady Melania Trump welcomes viewers to see the trees on the way to the East Garden Room. Over 40 red trees line the East Colonnade. They are in stark contrast to the white branches that lined the walkway in 2017. The New York Times, along with numerous other news outlets, late-night talk show hosts, and Internet commentators, commented on the First Lady’s choice. Some saw the red trees and other décor as patriotic and impactful. Others questioned whether they were a nod to disaster or even the future-set dystopian show and novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which also featured intense red costumes.

(Credit: Flickr/The White House)

Although she has received criticism for her choice of the “blood red trees,” the First Lady has focused on the intended patriotism of the holiday display. Of the “more than 14,000 red ornaments hanging from 29 trees” in the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall, the White House statement highlights their patriotic note. “The choice of red is an extension of the pales, or stripes, found in the presidential seal designed by our Founding Fathers,” the official unveiling statement read. “It’s a symbol of valor and bravery.”

Honoring the American People

The Gold Star Family tree is a highlight in the East Wing each year. On the tree decorated by the families of fallen servicemen and servicewomen, gold stars hang next to patriotic ribbon. The display also includes nearby tablets, where visitors can write messages of support to those in the armed forces currently serving on duty or overseas.

Various regions of the United States are also represented in the holiday décor. Mantel displays of the skylines of New York City, St. Louis, Chicago, and San Francisco are shown in the East Room. Trees hung with paper ornaments from around the United States are also displayed.

American Heritage on Display

Other trees, greenery, and decor show the bounty of the American harvest, opportunities for children in America and the First Lady’s own “Be Best” campaign, and historic traditions in the White House. These traditions include the White House nativity scene, which has been on display for over 50 holiday seasons, and place settings of White House china.

Measuring over 18 feet tall, the official White House Christmas tree is set up in the Blue Room. It is “dressed in over 500 feet of blue velvet ribbon embroidered in gold with each State and territory.” Last year’s official tree also showcased the states and territories of the United States, with ornaments decorated with each state or territory’s official seal.

The State Dining Room includes decorations of bald eagles, the rose, and the oak tree—all symbols of American might and patriotism. Each year, a gingerbread house is displayed. This year’s house is a full replica of the National Mall made out of gingerbread. It includes the Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the White House.

“This is a joyous time of year when we decorate the White House for the Christmas Season,” said the First Lady. “Our theme honors the heart and spirit of the American people.” She went on to thank the volunteers and staff who set up the decorations and wished everyone a Merry Christmas.

The grandeur of the White House is never more prominently or festively displayed than during the holiday season.

Visitors wanting to see the decorations will be able to request a tour through their respective member of Congress. Tours during the holiday season fill up well in advance as so many want to see the elaborate decorations in America’s house. The White House recommends submitting requests as early as possible, as the holidays are an extremely popular time for visitors.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Katie Begley

Katie Begley is a US Naval Academy graduate and former Surface Warfare Officer. In addition to being a military spouse, she is a freelance writer specializing in travel, education, and parenting subjects. Katie has worked in numerous communications roles for volunteer organizations and professionally for a local parenting magazine.

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