First lady kicks off Christmas with tree
WASHINGTON — Michelle Obama kicked off her family’s final Christmas season at the White House on Friday by receiving a 19-foot Balsam-Veitch fir from Wisconsin as the official White House Christmas tree.
The first lady, joined by two young nephews instead of her teenage daughters, said she’s ready for the holiday.
“Christmas begins. The holidays start,” Obama exclaimed after accepting the tree from Dave and Mary Vander Velden, owners of the Oconto, Wis., farm where it was grown.
The Vander Veldens won the National Christmas Tree Association’s annual contest, earning the honor of supplying the White House with its official Christmas tree.
Late Friday morning, a horse-drawn wagon pulled the tree up the White House driveway. After a visual inspection, Obama sought the opinions of her “replacement kids” — nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson.
“It’s great,” 6-year-old Austin said.
Obama explained that the appearance by the sons of brother Craig “is what happens when you get teenagers,” referring to daughters Malia, 18, and Sasha, 15.
“One’s asleep,” she said, gesturing toward the White House.
The tree will be trimmed so it can fit inside the White House Blue Room, where it traditionally stands, tethered to the ceiling, as the centerpiece of Christmas at the White House.
First lady Lou Henry Hoover started the custom of a Blue Room tree, decorating the first one in 1929, according to the White House Historical Association. The tradition of selecting a theme for the Blue Room tree began in 1961, during John F. Kennedy’s administration.
Obama plans to give military families the first look at the decorations Tuesday. The official Christmas tree is delivered to the White House on Friday. The tree will be on display in the Blue Room.