WASHINGTON (AP) – “We the People” is Jill Biden’s Christmas theme with White House decorations designed for “the people” to see themselves in the tree ornaments, mantels, mirrors and DIY creations, which have attracted the public of the manor rooms into a winter wonderland.
“The soul of our nation is and always has been ‘we the people,'” the first lady said at an event at the White House honoring the volunteers who decorated over Thanksgiving weekend. “And that’s what inspired this year’s White House Christmas decorations.”
“The values that unite us are all around you, a belief in possibility and optimism and unity,” Jill Biden said. “Room by room, we show what connects us during the holidays and throughout the year.”
Public spaces are dedicated to unifying forces: honoring and remembering loved ones who have died, words and stories, kindness and gratitude, food and traditions, nature and recreation, songs and sounds, unity and hope, faith and light, and children.
A burst of pine aroma hits visitors as they enter the east wing and encounter trees adorned with mirrored gold star ornaments bearing the names of fallen military personnel.
Winter trees, forest animals, and glowing lanterns along the hallway give the feeling of walking through snow.
Images of the Biden family pets – Commander and Willow, the dog and cat – first appear at the end of the hallway before later appearing in the Vermeil Room, which celebrates kindness and gratitude, and the State Dining Room, which emphasizes children .
Recipes contributed by the small army of volunteer decorators adorn the mantelpiece of the china room. Handwritten ones — for Apple Crisp and Pizzelle, an Italian cookie — are family recipes shared by the First Lady.
Aides say she was inspired by people she met while traveling the country, as well as the nation’s founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
A copy of the Declaration of Independence is on display in the library, while this year’s never-before-seen 300-pound (136-kilogram) White House gingerbread cookie includes a sugar cookie replica of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the documents were signed.
The chef used 20 sheets of sugar cookie dough, 30 sheets of gingerbread dough, 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of lozenges, 30 pounds (14 kilograms) of chocolate, and 40 pounds (18 kilograms) of royal icing to create the Gingerbread and Sugar Cookie Masterpiece.
A new addition to the White House collection this year is a menorah that is lit every night during the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. White House carpenters constructed the menorah using wood salvaged from a Truman-era renovation and sterling silver candle holders.
Around 50,000 visitors are expected through the White House during the holiday, including tourists and guests invited to almost a month’s worth of receptions. Among them will be French President Emmanuel Macron, who will meet with President Joe Biden at the White House on Thursday and be honored at a state dinner, the first of the Biden administration.
More than 150 volunteers, including two of the first lady’s sisters, helped decorate the White House over the Thanksgiving long holiday weekend.
Decorations include more than 83,000 twinkling lights on trees, garlands, wreaths and other displays, 77 Christmas trees and 25 wreaths on the exterior of the White House. Volunteers also used more than 12,000 ornaments, nearly 15,000 feet of ribbon, and more than 1,600 bells.
Some of the decorations are do-it-yourself projects that the first lady hopes people will be encouraged to recreate for themselves, aid workers said. These include plastic drinking cups turned into bells, and tabletop Christmas trees made from foam molds and dollar store ramekins.
Clusters of snow-capped trees fill the corners of the East Room, which reflects nature and recreation, and scenes from four national parks are depicted on each mantelpiece: Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, and Shenandoah.
In the Blue Room, the official White House Christmas tree—a 18-foot-tall concolor fir from Auburn, Pennsylvania—is decked out to represent unity and hope with handcrafted depictions of the official birds from all 57 territories. States and the District of Columbia.
The State Dining Room is dedicated to the next generation — children — and its trees are adorned with self-portrait ornaments made by 2021 Teachers of the Year students to “make sure kids see themselves,” the White House said.
The Biden family’s Christmas stockings hang on the fireplace in the State Dining Room.
“We the People” will be celebrated again in the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall on the State Floor, where metal bands will be inscribed with the names of each state, territory and District of Columbia.
Jill Biden has joined National Guard leaders from around the country as well as National Guard families as part of Joining Forces, her White House initiative to support military families. Her late son, Beau Biden, was a major in the Delaware Army National Guard.
She met with children from National Guard families before the event and told them she wanted to hear their stories because “you have served right alongside your parents and you deserve your bravery and sacrifice recognized.”
The White House noted that the vacation guide given to visitors was designed by Daria Peoples, an African-American children’s author who lives in Las Vegas. Peoples is a former elementary school teacher who has written and illustrated a number of picture books to support children of color, including those who have experienced racial trauma.