First lady kicks off Christ­mas with tree

Baltimore Sun - - TRUMP TRANSITION - By Dar­lene Su­perville

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.

SHAWN THEW/EPA

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