First responders and front-line workers being challenged by the deadly coronavirus pandemic are highlighted in White House Christmas decorations that also give a special nod to Melania Trump’s redesigned Rose Garden.
It’s the final Christmas in the White House for the Trump family, although US President Donald Trump continues to insist — despite evidence to the contrary — that he won the November 3 election. President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn into office on January 20.
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The first lady said “America the Beautiful” is her theme for the decor, and that it was inspired by Americans’ shared appreciation “for our traditions, values and history”.
Workers on the front lines of a pandemic that has killed more than 266,000 people in the United States and infected more than 13.4 million others are recognized in the Red Room with a Christmas tree dotted with handmade ornaments, as well as other decorations around the parlour.
The gingerbread White House — a sweet confection made of more than 181 kilograms of dough, gum paste, chocolate and royal icing — is on display in the State Dining Room and for the first time includes the Rose Garden, which the first lady recently renovated, and the First Ladies’ Garden.
Ornaments on the official White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room — a Fraser fir from Shepherdstown, West Virginia, that stands more than 5.49 metres (18 feet) tall — were designed by students who were asked by the National Park Service to depict what makes their states beautiful.
A buck and a crane are featured in three-dimensional art hanging in windows of the Green Room, where American wildlife is the highlight. Classical urns lining an East Wing walkway hold groupings of foliage from different regions of the country.
Trees and other decorations in the East Room feature planes, trains and automobiles — including models of Air Force One — in a nod to triumphs in US innovation and technology. Wrapped gifts beneath decorated trees lining the Cross Hall bear tags that say “peace”, “love”, “faith” and “joy”.
Monday’s unveiling of the Christmas decor came less than two months after Mrs Trump was heard on an audio recording using profanity as she complained about the pressure of having to decorate for the holiday in the past. The recording of the July 2018 conversation was made and released to CNN by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who was fired from the White House earlier that year.
Mrs Trump was heard on the recording suggesting that US detention centres provided better support for migrant children separated from their families than what they had at home with their parents. President Donald Trump was being criticised at the time for his administration’s policy of separating families at the US-Mexico border.
“I’m working like a – my a** off at Christmas stuff … You know, who gives a f*** about Christmas stuff and decoration?” she asked Wolkoff.
“I say that I’m working on Christmas planning for the Christmas, and they said, ‘Oh, what about the children?’ That they were separated.”
“Where they were saying anything when Obama did that?” she said.
Wolkoff published a tell-all book about her friendship and break-up with Mrs Trump, whom Wolkoff blames for not defending her after questions arose about spending for Trump’s 2017 inauguration, which Wolkoff helped produce.
This year some 125 volunteers from around the country used 62 trees, 106 wreaths, more than 366 meters of garland, more than 3,200 strands of lights and 17,000 bows to decorate the 132-room White House during the course of Thanksgiving weekend.
The library is decorated to recognise the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Stockings for the president, first lady and their 14-year-old son Barron hang from a fireplace in the room where presidential china patterns are displayed.
After previewing the decorations for the media, the White House on Monday planned the first of many holiday receptions that are expected to be smaller in size given coronavirus concerns.
A few miles north of the White House, the wrapping also came off the Christmas decorations at Vice President Mike Pence’s official residence on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory.
Karen Pence said “Old Fashioned Christmas” is their theme. The home is decorated with natural and rustic elements, including pine cones, seasonal berries, burlap, galvanised aluminium and plaid ribbon, along with seven Christmas trees and 35 wreaths.