The Times Herald (Norristown, PA)
‘We the People’ at heart of holiday decorations
WASHINGTON >> “We the People” is Jill Biden’s holiday theme with White House decorations designed for “the people” to see themselves in the tree ornaments, mantel displays, mirrors and do-it-yourself creations that have turned the mansion’s public spaces into a winter wonderland.
“The soul of our nation is, and always has been, ‘We the People,’” the first lady says in remarks prepared for a Monday afternoon event and released by the White House. “And that is what inspired this year’s White House holiday decoration.”
“The values that unite us can be found all around you, a belief in possibility, optimism and unity,” Biden says. “Room by room, we represent what brings us together during the holidays and throughout the year.”
The White House gave journalists an early look at the décor on Monday, before the first lady’s official unveiling later in the day.
Public rooms are dedicated to unifying forces: honoring and remembering deceased loved ones, words and stories, kindness and gratitude, food and traditions, nature and recreation, songs and sounds, unity and hope, faith and light, and children.
Honoring the fallen
A burst of pine aroma hits visitors as they step inside the East Wing and come upon trees adorned with mirrored Gold Star ornaments bearing the names of fallen service members.
Winter trees, woodland animals and glowing lanterns placed along the hallway help give the feeling of walking through snow.
Likenesses of Biden family pets — Commander and Willow, the dog and cat — first appear at the end of the hallway before they are seen later in the Vermeil Room, which celebrates kindness and gratitude, and the State Dining Room, which highlights children.
Recipes contributed by the small army of volunteer decorators spruce up the China Room’s mantel. Handwritten ones — for apple crisp and pizzelle, an Italian cookie — are family recipes shared by the first lady.
Aides say she was inspired by people she met while traveling around the country and by the nation’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
A copy of the Declaration of Independence is on display in the library, while the always-show-stopping 300-pound gingerbread White House this year includes a sugar-cookie replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the documents were signed.
The executive pastry chef used 20 sheets of sugarcookie dough, 30 sheets of gingerbread dough, 100 pounds of pastillage, 30 pounds of chocolate and 40 pounds of royal icing to make the gingerbread and sugar-cookie masterpiece.
A new addition to the White House collection this year is a menorah, which is lit nightly during the eightday Jewish festival of Hanukkah. White House carpenters built the menorah out of wood that was saved from a Truman-era renovation, and sterling silver candle cups.
Some 50,000 visitors are expected to pass through the White House for the holidays, including tourists and guests invited to nearly a month’s worth of receptions. Among them will be French President Emmanuel Macron, who will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday and be honored at a state dinner, the first of the Biden administration.
More than 150 volunteers, including two of the first lady’s sisters, helped decorate the White House during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
The decorations include more than 83,000 twinkling lights on trees, garlands, wreaths and other displays, 77 Christmas trees and 25 wreaths on the White House exterior. Volunteers also used more than 12,000 ornaments, just under 15,000 feet of ribbon and more than 1,600 bells.
Some of the decorations are do-it-yourself projects that the first lady hopes people will be encouraged to re-create in their own homes, aides said. The projects include plastic cups made into bells, table-top Christmas trees made from foam shapes, and dollarstore ramekins.