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White House looks to tell ‘great story of America’ with holiday decor

White House Holiday Decorations
Greg Nash
Commander and Willow are seen during a press preview of holiday decorations at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Monday, November 28, 2022.

This year’s White House holiday decor is taking a cue from the Constitution, decking the halls with the theme, “We the People.” 

Jill Biden unveiled the theme for the annual decorating tradition on Monday, saying in a statement that her hope for the White House’s seasonal makeover was to “capture the spirit embodied in the very idea of America.”

“During your visit to the People’s House, through rooms full of history and holiday decor, in the mirrored ornaments and reflective lights, our hope is that you feel at home and find yourself in the great story of America,” the first lady said.

“As our country gathers for the holidays, traditions may vary, but our shared American values — a belief in possibility, optimism, and unity — endure season after season,” she added.

In a media preview on Monday, the White House gave a first glimpse at its holiday transformation.

A tree that first greets visitors at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. honors Gold Star families, with ornaments inscribed with the names of fallen service members. Biden, who launched her Joining Forces initiative with former first lady Michelle Obama in 2011, is poised to welcome National Guard leaders and families at the White House on Monday.

Another area of the White House, the Vermeil Room, features cameos by the Bidens’ pets, with illustrations of dog Commander and cat Willow on display. The drawings, the White House said, are meant to remind “us of the gift of unconditional love.”

The gingerbread house in the State Dining Room is joined by a sweet sidekick this year: a sugar cookie replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. The massive confection includes 20 sheets of sugar cookie dough, 30 sheets of gingerbread dough, 100 pounds of pastillage, 30 pounds of chocolate and 40 pounds of royal icing, according to the White House.

White House pastry chef Susan Morrison told ITK a team of six culinary gurus had been working on the sugary creation since September. Crafting the “We the People” banner out of pastillage and “making sure it’s the focal point” — complete with the handwritten words of the Constitution — proved the most challenging part of the nearly-300 pound holiday project, Morrison said.

Stockings on mantel in the State Dining Room bear the names of the Bidens’ grandchildren, along with pets Commander and Willow.

The president’s 1-year-old German Shepherd and cat get a lot of love in this year’s décor, popping up as smiling sculptures in three surprise appearances throughout the White House.

The China Room features a baking-inspired design, “meant to remind us of family traditions passed down through generations, overflowing kitchens that smell like familiar recipes, and crowded dining room tables filled with laughter,” according to the White House.

The room includes trees blanketed with garlands made of wooden spoons and rolling pins, along with recipe cards contributed by volunteers. Two of Jill Biden’s sisters helped decorate the space over the weekend, and included recipes for apple crisp and pizzelle, while the first lady added her own handwritten instructions for baking lemon bars.

The White House also announced a “new addition” to its collection this year: a menorah constructed from wood that was removed around 1950 in a renovation during President Truman’s administration. The menorah, located in the Cross Hall of the White House, was created by the Executive Residence Carpentry Shop. 

This year’s decor includes more than 83,600 holiday lights, 25 wreaths and 77 Christmas trees.

More than 150 volunteers helped to decorate the White House this year in anticipation of the 50,000 visitors expected to pass through during the holiday season.

— Updated at 9:26 a.m.

Tags holiday Jill Biden Jill Biden Michelle Obama We the People
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