- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2021

First lady Jill Biden unveiled White House Christmas decor Monday that highlights “Gifts from the Heart” that unite the country — including faith, family, the arts and service — and pays homage to front-line workers who toiled through the coronavirus pandemic.

Mrs. Biden said 100 volunteers worked a full week to decorate the inside and outside of the White House, an annual tradition.

“The things we hold sacred unite us and transcend distance, time, and even the constraints of a pandemic: faith, family, and friendship; a love of the arts, learning, and nature; gratitude, service, and community; unity and peace,” Mrs. Biden said in a joint statement with President Biden. “These are the gifts that tie together the heartstrings of our lives. These are the gifts from the heart.”

Starting in the East Wing, which includes the Office of the First Lady, Mrs. Biden said the decor honors the gift of “service,” with “iridescent doves and shooting stars” representing the light given to all by front-line workers and first responders during the pandemic.

This year’s gingerbread house in the State Dining Room — always a highlight — is dedicated to front-line workers, too. It features eight detailed replicas of community buildings where these workers labored through the coronavirus crisis, often putting themselves at risk. They include a hospital, police station, fire station, gas station, grocery store, warehouse, school and post office.

The East Landing features the Gold Star Tree dedicated to soldiers who’ve died in service and “the families who carry on their legacies,” while the White House library is decorated with butterflies and birds made of recycled paper to honor teachers who connected with students in “new and innovative ways.”

Graphic art installations and children’s handprint art honor the arts in the Vermeil Room, and intertwined garlands in the China Room represent friends.

The Grand Foyers and Cross Hall are decorated with floating candles and trees depicting wintry life across America, and the East Room is dedicated to “gratitude,” symbolized by handwritten notes.

“Whether it is penning a thank you card, sending a sweet text with a heart emoji, or dropping off muffins on a neighbor’s front porch, these expressions of gratitude heal our hearts and bring us together,” the first lady’s office said.

Purples trees with natural orchids represent nature in the Green Room, doves carrying a shimmering banner with the names of each state and territory represent peace and unity in the Blue Room, and brass instruments, ballet slippers and musical notes highlight the performing arts in the Red Room.

Christmas trees in the State Dining Room, which includes the gingerbread house, will feature ornaments with photographs of first families past and present.

The Trumps, the Obamas, both Bushes, the Reagans and the Carters have photos on the tree, according to the White House. The Biden family photos include the first couple’s children and grandchildren along with dogs Champ and Major.

She‘s been going through old family albums to pick them out,” White House social secretary Carlos Elizondo said of Mrs. Biden.

All told, the White House will hold 41 Christmas trees, 6,000 feet of ribbon, over 300 candles and more than 10,000 ornaments.

The first lady said 78,750 lights decorate the Christmas trees, garlands, wreaths and displays in the White House.

Also, 25 classic wreaths will dot the north and south facades of the White House.

“As we celebrate our first holiday season in the White House, we are inspired by the Americans we have met across the country, time and again reminding us that our differences are precious and our similarities infinite,” Mrs. Biden and Mr. Biden said. “We wish you a happy, healthy, and joyous holiday season. As we look to a new year full of possibility, may gifts from the heart light our path forward.”

The planning for holiday decorations began in late May and early June. The first lady was “very involved” in the planning, according to her office.

Mr. Elizondo led the Bidens on a private tour of the decorations on Sunday afternoon when they got back from a Thanksgiving weekend in Nantucket.

“We didn’t have too much problems with supply chain but there were some items that were backed up, obviously just like everybody else is experiencing in the country,” Mr. Elizondro said. “But we did manage to source everything before the reveal.”

There are no public tours right now because of COVID-19, but the White House will have an open house Wednesday to celebrate Hanukkah and announce additional openings in the coming days.

Also, interactive features involving the decor will be posted at whitehouse.gov/holidays and on social media channels.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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