It is a tradition every Christmas season at the White House that the First Lady of the United States designs and chooses the decorations. Historically, the holiday season is a huge deal for the White House and every year there has been elaborate parties and tree lighting ceremonies in order to welcome the holiday season to our country.
The first known Christmas tree in the White House was in 1889, during the Benjamin Harris administration. It was placed on the second floor in the Oval Room, and was decorated very simply, with candles. Every administration since then has continued the tradition, celebrating Christmas and the holiday season with decorations all throughout the White House.
What’s interesting is that each administration steps up their decorations, meaning that it has not always been as over-the-top as it is now.
Since it’s the First Lady’s job to lead the decorating process, it’s also her job to decide what the theme is and how each room will be designed. The decision to make the First Lady the head of the decoration process was first done during the Hoover administration, and then First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of giving each tree a theme when she chose to decorate the tree with decorations from “The Nutcracker” in 1961.
This year, First Lady Melania Trump decided on the theme of “America the Beautiful,” giving tribute to the traditions and history from each state that make our country unique and incredible.
First Lady Trump stated, “Over the past four years, I have had the honor to travel to some of our nation’s most beautiful landmarks and meet some of the most compassionate and patriotic American citizens. From coast to coast, the bond that all Americans share is an appreciation for our traditions, values and history, which were the inspiration behind the decorations this year.”
This year, my family and I were lucky enough to receive tickets from our congresswoman and tour the White House, witnessing for ourselves the beautiful decorations. We were blown away by the vibrant colors and lights that filled each tree, and loved how every room was given a specific theme.
The Blue Room, which has the official White House Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments designed by students all over the country. It is over eighteen feet tall and filled with beaming lights and personal decorations that highlight the differences of every child’s experience living in America. On Instagram, First Lady Melania Trump posted, “#BeBest encourages youth to BE BEST in their individual paths and the splendor of America shines brightly through the handmade ornaments and the unique perspective of American children.”
In the State Dining Room, the yearly gingerbread house was displayed, and it was enormous, sitting at 110 pounds of dough, 30 pounds of gum paste, 25 pounds of chocolate and 25 pounds of icing! It is a replica of the Rose Garden (the First Ladies’ garden), West Wing, East Wing and the Executive Residence.
Another special aspect of the decorations was the “Gold Star Family Tree,” which is the first thing visitors are greeted with when they enter. The tree is filled with patriotic ribbons and golden stars that remind visitors of the great sacrifice that American heroes and their families make.
Every year, Melania Trump blows all expectations away and impresses Americans across the country. In 2018, Melania’s Christmas decorations impressed the nation, with her famous all-red Christmas trees that included more than 14,000 red ornaments on 29 vibrant red trees. The choice of using all red decorations was taken from the red in the presidential seal designed by the founding fathers, which signifies valor and bravery.
Overall, visiting the White House during the Christmas season was an experience that every American should have in their lifetime, no matter their age or what their background is. Not only was it beautiful and stunning to witness the First Lady’s creative ideas in place, but it was a historic time, given that it was during a global pandemic. It was really uplifting to see how traditions are still being tended to because it reminds us as Americans that we will still come together as a community to defeat this invisible enemy and return to normal soon enough.