Over the years the White House Christmas Decorations have been used to include all 50 States, to highlight the work and causes of the First Lady and most importantly to bring a sense of holiday spirit to “the people’s house”. All First Ladies have done it with serious intent and well.
More and more people are entertained each year in the White House itself along with the constant tours that are given for tourists who are lucky enough to get a ticket. It starts just after Thanksgiving and continues through the New Year.
The President has a multitude of people he entertains over the holidays and every evening there will be hundreds of people traipsing through the small white building that looks so big to us in photos. There are Congressional nights, executive branch nights, White House staffer night, different States’ nights, donor nights and even a Press corps night.
I have been fortunate enough to be at several White House Christmas parties. The gatherings themselves take on the character of the hosts. The Carters were present only for a short time and within minutes of their departure, the party looked as if it could have been hosted by Andrew Jackson. The outfits were scanty and one woman had on a body suit! One well known staffer was smoking a hand rolled cigarette- you take it from there…
By contrast, the Reagans had very quiet and elegant evenings. They made you feel very important. And the rooms were filled with important and recognizable people, beautiful clothes and there were always Hollywood friends who really made it worth going.
The elder Bushes were down home but very DC oriented. You knew everybody in the room but it was never over the top. It was fun but tame.
George and Laura Bush were charming and stayed for a photo with everyone. It was down home but very elegant and always filled with their personal friends from home. They mixed groups and the food and decorations were really done with her personal touch. The President was always animated and friendly.
The one thing they all had in common was extremely tasteful and lovely decorations. So for all the comments and criticisms that every First Lady endures, they all look very much the same. They are extravagant and colorful and classic. I think the photo above of the White House dining room shows that Mrs Trump has done equally well if not better than most.
First lady Barbara Bush shows off the White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room, Monday Dec. 12, 1989, in Washington. The first lady was conducting a tour for members of the press. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook)
So what is like to go to the White House? First you get yourself to Washington DC and find a parking space or walk from your hotel. Its cold ! You go down a very long walk from one security station to the next. Still cold! Everyone is very pleasant but they will search you and your bag.
Then you enter the building at what I would say is the basement walkway. That is the long hall of trees that you see Mrs Trump walking down. That hallway is very beautiful but you are walking fast because it is cold! You pass smiling Marines and carollers, You reach the end and go up the stairs to the main floor. People are not mingling but instead you are ushered into a line and given a card. You will now snake through the main reception area ( the whole left side of the White House). This room is full of trees and beautiful decorations but you are there- in line – for awhile. Finally you enter the area with the President and First Lady and have your photo taken with them in front of the big tree. This is your only one on one time with the President and you are not staying longer than the time it takes to snap a photo and for him to let you know that he knows who you are- and whoosh- you are in the dining room ( the whole right side of the building).
There is modest food and modest drink but always lovely. Everyone always walks over immediately and checks out the Ginger Bread house which is always the hit of the night. The ginger bread house always carries a message. Barbara Bush had it full of pups. This year, it has the American scene including highlights from around the country, the Statue of Liberty, The Golden Gate Bridge, and the St Louis Arch
You can now mingle, check out the Blue Room, Red Room etc and see the first family’s choices of art and furniture for the public rooms- even the famous China room which is so small that you almost have to take turns looking in. The trees and decorations are all done by volunteers.
It is lovely and an honor to be invited. But the first couple on top of doing it every night for weeks gets very little personal time to enjoy all the hard work of the hundreds of volunteers who produce and decorate. It really is done for the American people. So I think we should appreciate the donations and volunteers that make it possible; the First Ladies who get put through the ringer no matter what they do; and for many staffers who work long hours to make it possible for so many people to see it in person and now on video.