Fes­tive fi­nale at the White House

White House Christ­mas theme: ‘The Gift of the Hol­i­days’

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dar­lene Superville

WASH­ING­TON >> For her fam­ily’s fi­nal Christ­mas in the White House, Michelle Obama used the hol­i­day decor to high­light her core ini­tia­tives as first lady: ser­vice, ed­u­ca­tion and health.

The fa­mil­iar crowd-pleasers are still part of the an­nual show:

A tow­er­ing tree dom­i­nates the Blue Room, trimmed as it has been in the past to honor the U.S. mil­i­tary and their fam­i­lies, an is­sue Mrs. Obama has em­pha­sized.

Larger-than-life repli­cas of fam­ily dogs Bo and Sunny will greet tens of thou­sands of hol­i­day visitors shortly af­ter they en­ter through the East Wing of the White House.

And no White House Christ­mas would feel com­plete with­out the an­nual gin­ger­bread ver­sion. This year’s replica weighed in at more than 300 pounds, in­clud­ing 150 pounds of gin­ger­bread cov­ered in 100 pounds of bread dough to form the white ex­te­rior. Mod­els of Bo and Sunny sit out front.

Down­stairs in the li­brary, ed­u­ca­tion is the theme. Some of the tree or­na­ments are writ­ten with the word “girls” in 12 lan­guages to rep­re­sent the first lady’s “Let Girls Learn” ini­tia­tive to en­cour­age coun­tries to pro­vide an ed­u­ca­tion for tens of mil­lions of ado­les­cent girls around the world.

Mrs. Obama’s “Let’s Move” anti-child­hood obe­sity is rep­re­sented by the fruits, to rep­re­sent healthy eat­ing, and laid out in the Green and Red Rooms up­stairs on the State Floor. Wreaths made of lemons and gar­lands made of limes dec­o­rate Green Room walls; clove-stud­ded or­anges, ap­ples and pomegranates are mixed with greens to cre­ate wreaths for the Red Room.

Mrs. Obama was un­veil­ing the decor for mil­i­tary fam­i­lies on Tues­day, but the White House gave the news me­dia a sneak peek be­fore­hand.

“This year’s hol­i­day theme, ‘The Gift of the Hol­i­days,’ re­flects on not only the joy of giv­ing and re­ceiv­ing, but also the true gifts of life, such as ser­vice, friends and fam­ily, ed­u­ca­tion, and good health, as we celebrate the hol­i­day sea­son,” the first lady’s of­fice said in a state­ment de­scrib­ing the dec­o­ra­tions.

More than 90 vol­un­teer dec­o­ra­tors be­gan ar­riv­ing on Thanks­giv­ing Day to take on the mon­u­men­tal task of dec­o­rat­ing the White House, doing ev­ery­thing from haul­ing boxes and mak­ing bows to hang­ing lights and wreaths and trim­ming trees. The 19-foot Blue Room tree ar­rived last Fri­day and it took four days to get it ready, said vol­un­teer dec­o­ra­tor Pa­tri­cia Ochan, of Ar­ling­ton, Vir­ginia.

The tree fea­tures mir­rored or­na­ments and gar­land with the pre­am­ble to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

Ochan, a mil­i­tary spouse orig­i­nally from Uganda, said it was “most ex­cit­ing” to help dec­o­rate the Blue Room tree.

“I know how it feels not

to have your loved one home with you for the hol­i­days,” she said.

An­other high­light this year are 56 Lego gin­ger­bread houses, one for each state and ter­ri­tory, that are nes­tled in the branches of the trees in the State Dining Room, where the decor was planned to celebrate

fam­ily and friends. A team of Lego builders at the com­pany’s Con­necti­cut of­fices crafted the houses from more than 200,000 Lego pieces.

Most of the or­na­ments and other dec­o­ra­tions were reused, the White House said. Just 10 per­cent were new.

AN­DREW HARNIK — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The East Room is dec­o­rated at the White House dur­ing a pre­view of the 2016 hol­i­day decor, Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton.

AN­DREW HARNIK — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

The North Por­tico of the White House is dec­o­rated dur­ing a pre­view of the 2016 hol­i­day decor, Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton.

AN­DREW HARNIK — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Hol­l­i­day cook­ies are put out dur­ing a pre­view of the 2016 hol­i­day decor, Tues­day in Wash­ing­ton.

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