White House spruced up for festive season

27 November 2023, 20:04

Holiday decorations adorn the Grand Foyer of the White House for the 2023 theme Magic, Wonder and Joy
White House Holidays. Picture: PA

Some 300 designers and decorators volunteered to spend the past week transforming the executive mansion.

US first lady Jill Biden has chosen a White House holiday decor that she hopes will inspire guests to feel like children again.

“Each room on display is designed to capture the pure, unfiltered delight and imagination of our childhoods, to see this time of year through the wondrous, sparkling eyes of children,” Mrs Biden said.

Holiday decorations adorn the White House for the 2023 theme Magic, Wonder, and Joy
Holiday decorations adorn the White House for the 2023 theme Magic, Wonder and Joy (Evan Vucci/AP)

Some 300 designers and decorators volunteered to spend the past week transforming the executive mansion.

Magic, Wonder and Joy is the theme this year, the Bidens’ third in the White House.

The whimsical set of oversized decorations are meant to inspire the feelings that put children on joyful edge at this time of the year, White House aides said.

Holiday decorations adorn the library of the White House for the 2023 theme Magic, Wonder, and Joy
Festive decorations adorn the library of the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)

Throughout two public floors of the White House, the decor features numerous nods to the 200th anniversary of the publication of the poem and book commonly known as ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas – the official title is A Visit From St Nicholas.

The Library of Congress provided samples of editions of the book from the past 200 years that are on display in protective cases along the ground-floor corridor.

The traditional gingerbread White House includes a large sugar cookie replica of the book opened to a page that says: “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Holiday decorations adorn the Blue Room of the White House for the 2023 theme Magic, Wonder, and Joy
Holiday decorations adorn the Blue Room (Evan Vucci/AP)

Santa’s sleigh and reindeer fly above the cookie White House.

The White House released a fact sheet and allowed the news media to see the trees, lights and other decorations before the first lady’s unveiling.

National Guard families, who were invited as part of Joining Forces, her White House initiative to show appreciation for military families, will be among the first members of the public to see the decorations.

Holiday decorations adorn the White House for the 2023 theme Magic, Wonder, and Joy
Holiday decorations adorn the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)

Children of these and other military families were also being treated to an afternoon performance by the cast of the North American tour of the Disney musical Frozen.

One of the first Christmas trees visitors will see upon entering the White House is decorated with wooden gold star ornaments engraved with the names of fallen service members.

The official White House Christmas tree, an 18.5ft tall (5.6-metre tall) Fraser fir, stands in its usual place in the Blue Room.

Holiday decorations adorn the Library of the White House for the 2023 theme Magic, Wonder, and Joy
The Library of the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)

The massive tree highlights cheerful scenes, landscapes and neighbourhoods from across the country.

A toy train runs around its base.

The State Dining Room has been transformed into Santa’s workshop, with elves’ workbenches, stools and ladders circling Christmas trees, and tools and gifts-in-progress rounding out the decor.

Holiday decorations adorn the Cross Hall of the White House for the 2023 theme Magic, Wonder, and Joy
The Cross Hall of the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)

The dining room is the customary stage for the gingerbread White House, which was assembled using 40 sheets of sugar cookie dough for the book and 40 sheets of gingerbread dough for the house, 90lbs (41 kilograms) of pastillage, a cake decorating paste, 30lbs (14kg) of chocolate and 50lbs (23kg) of royal icing.

The library honours the tradition of bedtime stories with dangling golden moons and shimmering stars;, the China Room has been turned into a sweet shop featuring baked goodies, and the Vermeil Room celebrates music with a display of rotating big Marine Band figurines with trumpets.

Glowing candles and stained glass in the Green Room celebrate faith, and holiday craft-making is the theme in the Red Room, where a tradition of featuring cranberries continues.

Holiday decorations adorn the China Room of the White House for the 2023 theme Magic, Wonder, and Joy
The China Room of the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)

The official White House Menorah is on display in the Cross Hall connecting the State Dining Room and the East Room, which is decorated with trees and various advent calendars.

The decor also features likenesses of family cat Willow and dog Commander, who was sent away recently after multiple incidents of biting Secret Service personnel.

In her prepared remarks, the first lady said she knows that magic, wonder and joy can be hard to find, especially as the days grow shorter, the weather turns colder “and our hearts grow heavy in the face of a tumultuous world”.

Holiday decorations adorn the East Room of the White House
The East Room of the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)

“But it’s in these times, when we are searching for hope and healing, that we need those points of light the most, that we need each other the most,” she says.

“It’s in these times that I hope you remember, if even just for a moment or a season, how you saw the world as a child.”

Ninety-eight Christmas trees, nearly 34,000 ornaments, over 22,000 bells and more than 350 candles were used in the decor, according to the White House.

Holiday decorations adorn the Grand Foyer of the White House for the 2023 theme Magic, Wonder, and Joy
The Grand Foyer of the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)

Nearly 142,500 lights illuminate trees, garlands, wreaths and other displays, and nearly 15,000ft (4,600 metres) of ribbon are part of it all.

Seventy-two wreaths sporting red ribbons adorn the north and south exteriors of the building.

Decorators spent last week working while President Joe Biden and his family were in Nantucket, Massachusetts, for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Holiday decorations adorn the Vermeil Room of the White House
Holiday decorations adorn the Vermeil Room of the White House (Evan Vucci/AP)

For the decorators, that meant three days in a warehouse assembling decorations, and the past three days transforming the White House.

By Press Association

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