Information on White House Christmas 2013
2013 White House Christmas – Gather Around
The theme for the White House Christmas 2013 is Gather Around, a celebration of coming together with loved ones at this special time of year, and of the stories behind our beloved and classic American holiday traditions. In celebrating heartfelt memories from American families across the country and First Families throughout the years, Gather Around seeks to have us share our stories with one another and inspire us for the season and into the New Year.
Using thoughtful hand-made volunteer crafts and recycled classic pieces, the Gather Around decorations tell a story with each room and every tree in the White House. Special art displays and Christmas trees made from repurposed books help this year’s theme come alive, and warm, traditional colors inspired by nature help unify the theme throughout the house.
This year’s decorations also honor our military families, a tradition started by Mrs. Obama, whose Joining Forces initiative seeks to honor and support those who sacrifice so much for our freedom.
East Visitor Entrance
The East Visitor Entrance serves as a welcoming point for guests as they begin their tours of the White House. The walkway leading to the house features lanterns, the two trees that flank the East entrance are complete with gold pinecones and the garland around the entrance is accented by burgundy ribbons.
East Entrance Landing
The area between the entrance and the East Colonnade is dedicated to honoring our military members and their families. The landing features a tree dedicated to the memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and includes ornaments placed by Gold Star families, as well as ornaments representing all five branches of the military. Visitors are encouraged to write postcards thanking our service members serving abroad, and to pledge volunteer hours through Operation Honor Cards in order to give back during the holiday season and the New Year.
The windows of the East Colonnade feature evergreen and stained glass wreaths, and at the end of the hallway is a handmade archway made from satin ribbon and chenille stems. Outside in the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden sits a Christmas tree wrapped in lights, perched atop a sleigh.
East Garden Room
The East Garden Room, commonly known as “Booksellers,” showcases stacked books which morph into Christmas trees, and a special book display that spells out the message “Share Your Story.” The east wall of the room features ribbon topiaries of the First Dogs – with a high-fiving Bo and a playful Sunny coming to life to delight the many children that will visit the White House this holiday season.
Accenting the many books in the Library is a Christmas tree styled with golden pinecones and burlap ribbon, decorated with poinsettia detail and a burgundy scroll design. A basket at the foot of the fireplace holds ornaments and glowing white lights.
This year, the Vermeil Room houses two Christmas trees, each adorned with wreath ring ornaments wrapped in satin yarn, and small door ornaments made by volunteers.
The eight-foot Christmas tree in the China Room is decorated with dangling crystal ornaments, red berries and fresh greenery. The table in the center of the room includes cylinder glass votive holders etched with the words “Gather Around.” Fresh greenery covers the mantelpiece, decorated with red, gold and silver ornaments matching the tree.
Grand Foyer and Cross Hall
The Grand Foyer and Cross Hall are decorated to celebrate both individual American families and our nation as a whole. The four large Christmas trees decorating the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall are adorned with snowflake ornaments and notes written by volunteers expressing their holiday wishes. Small wooden picture frame ornaments hold silhouettes of landmarks from around our nation including the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and the Golden Gate Bridge.
State Dining Room
The State Dining Room features two 14 foot Christmas trees placed on either side of the mantelpiece, decorated with tin hearts, painted and decoupaged with the word “gratitude.” The State Dining Room is also home to the famous gingerbread house. Over the course of several weeks, members of the White House pastry team created a 300-pound, edible White House replica. This year’s creation features a mini Bo and Sunny sitting on the front steps of the house lit from within, and a functioning replica of the North Lawn fountain. This year, the gingerbread house rests on a life-size, custom-made hearth fashioned from Springerle Cookies. These sweet treats tell stories through images imprinted on their dough by hand-carved, wooden molds. Framing the opening of the hearth are sugar paste recreations of the tiles commissioned for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fireplace. The edible fireplace reminds us of President Roosevelt’s famous “fireside chats” and will certainly evoke memories for so many of their own special moments gathered around a fireplace.
For years, the Red Room has been home to the traditional White House cranberry tree. In keeping with this custom, a crimson and plum-colored flower and fruit vase—hand-made entirely of sugar paste—contains a one-of-a-kind arrangement of scarlet and fuchsia flowers and berries. The Red Room also features round stained glass wreaths hanging in the window bays above two 8 foot Christmas trees. Burlap cones filled with fresh greens and red berry accents decorate the Christmas trees, and gold painted nutcrackers accent the side tables of the room.
This oval room is home to the official White House Christmas Tree. This year’s tree, like many in years past, features decorations honoring our military families. More than 2,000 distinctive ornaments decorate the 18.5 foot Douglas fir from Lehighton, Pennsylvania. Children living on bases across the country created holiday greeting cards, many of which share their favorite holiday traditions. Other ornaments feature photographs of deployment homecomings, celebrating the joyous moment when families are reunited after long separations. These personalized decorations, along with round fabric ornaments featuring the silhouettes of each state and territory, hang from the tree’s branches. The tree also holds small globe ornaments, three-dimensional gold and silver paper-mache stars and ribbons hand-embroidered by volunteers with each state and territory.
Flower ornaments, sugared fruits and lush foliage convey the beauty of nature in the Green Room. In each window bay, 21-inch round stained glass windows with floral motifs hang above an 8-foot Christmas tree. Round disc ornaments decorated with red poppies adorn the trees, along with orange and red felt flowers and faux sugared fruits. Thick fresh greenery along with ornaments decorate the mantelpiece.
The East Room celebrates the act of sharing stories through art, and features four Christmas trees decorated with upwards of 120 detailed, unique ornaments created by volunteers. Ornaments include decorated miniature cardboard houses, large hand crafted paper roses and glass bell jars filled with small decorative pieces, such as miniature picture frames of art. On the wall of the East Room sits the White House crèche. The crèche has been a part of the White House holiday décor since it was given by the Engelhard Family during the Johnson Administration in 1967. Originally from Naples, Italy, the Baroque-style set consists of 44 terra cotta and wood figures, some over 300 years old.
For additional information, including the 2013 Holiday Tour Book and instructions on crafts the military children will create today, go to WH.gov/Holidays. Holiday-related content from the White House will be tagged #WHHoliday.
- The official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room stands 18 ½ feet high and is nearly 11 feet wide. It comes from Crystal Springs Tree Farm in Lehighton, PA.
- 24 Christmas trees will be visible on the public tour route.
- Over 450 repurposed books were used as part of the holiday decorations this year. They will be donated to a local school’s book drive following the holiday season.
- Approximately 1,000 yards of satin ribbon were used to make this year’s replicas of the First Dogs Bo and Sunny.
- Over 1,200 Springerle cookies were used on the gingerbread fireplace in the State Dining Room.
- Nearly 300 lbs. of bread dough were used to make the completely edible White House replica in the State Dining Room.
- Approximately 70,000 visitors are expected to visit the White House during the 2013 holiday season.
Remarks by the First Lady at 2013 Holiday Press Preview
MRS. OBAMA: Well, hello, everyone. You guys look great — I’m talking about the front row. (Laughter.) You guys look okay, too. Well, I am thrilled to welcome you all here to the White House. Are you excited?
MRS. OBAMA: Why are you excited? (Laughter.) Because it’s Christmas? Because you’re going to get presents soon? Because there may be treats somewhere? Yes, a few heads nodding. Well, we’re excited to have you guys here with us today.
I want to start by thanking Diane and her amazing family for all that they’ve done for this country and for that eloquent introduction, and for being one of the many fabulous volunteers who helped make this White House so beautiful. In fact, Diane told me that she got to work in this room, so we can personally thank her for this beautiful — these beautiful decorations. Diane, we’re just so grateful to you. And I want you all to know a little bit about Diane — that in addition to the long hours that she put in this week, on top of all of that, she has spent countless hours volunteering regularly in her community through her church, through the Red Cross.
So volunteering is no stranger — or Diane is no stranger to volunteering. In fact, Diane isn’t alone in the contributions she’s making — in fact, I believe she embodies the spirit that we see in military families –- families like all of yours all across this country, particularly during the holiday season. You all are serving our nation. You all are volunteering in your communities every day. And you’re also taking care of business at home with your own families.
And during this holiday season, as we gather with our loved ones, I’d ask every American to remember what our military families and servicemembers often experience during this time of year. Let us all remember the sacrifices they make to proudly serve all of us.
For example, I’m thinking today about the thousands of men and women in uniform serving abroad who wake up in the middle of the night in some remote part of the world to read a special holiday story to their children over Skype, or to be there on the screen to experience that special moment of joy when their kids open those presents from Santa.
And then there are the military families who spend hours painstakingly filling holiday care packages for their loved ones in uniform –- sending them miniature Christmas trees, making holiday cookies, creating special homemade cards, doing their best to help them experience the magic of the holidays wherever they may be.
And let us remember that many military families are assigned to bases that are far from their extended families, so they aren’t always able to make it home to see grandma and grandpa. And as a consequence, they have to find new ways to make the season bright. So they reach out, and they band together with other families, and they create their own special military family celebrations and traditions. And that’s what I’ve learned that military families do.
No matter what challenges you all face –- during the holidays or any other time during the year — you all just dig a little deeper. I say this time and time again. You just get creative and you find ways to make it work, and you do it with such strength and humor and grace. And on top of all of that, somehow, like Diane, so many of you still manage to find time over the holidays and throughout the year to give back to your communities, once again digging deep and going above and beyond.
In fact, a recent survey shows that 81 percent of military family members reported volunteering in the past year, and that’s compared to just 27 percent of the general public. So you guys really make us all look bad. (Laughter.) But in short, your sacrifice and your service to this country, your families’ stories are such an important part of our great American story — stories that remind us of the true meaning of the holiday season.
And that actually brings me to this year’s official White House holiday theme, which is “Gather Around: Stories of the Season.” This holiday season, we’ll be focusing on the stories behind classic American holiday traditions — traditions celebrated here at the White House and across the country. Our goal is for every room and every tree to tell a story about who we are and how we gather around one another to mark the holidays.
And that starts with all of you — literally. In fact, when visitors arrive, the very first thing they’ll see is a tree decorated to pay tribute to our Armed Forces. This tree, graced with special Gold Star ornaments, tells the story of some of our greatest heroes: Those who gave their lives for our country. And any Gold Star family who visits the White House can create their own ornament to honor their loved one. In addition, everyone who visits this White House this year gets a chance to fill out an Operation Honor Card pledging to serve their community in honor of our military families, your servicemembers, your veterans, whoever you choose, just find a way to serve.
We also have an entire room — it’s right next door, it’s the Blue Room, one of my favorite rooms — dedicated to the idea of gathering around our military. The tree in that room is decorated with holiday greeting cards drawn by military children from bases all across the country as a way to celebrate their parents’ service. And they’re beautiful, they’re really sweet cards.
So that’s how we’ll be honoring our veterans and servicemembers and their families this holiday season. And I would ask during this time that every American find a way to honor these great Americans, not just during the holidays, but every day. And let us never forget the debt that we owe these men and women and their amazing families.
As for the rest of the house, because there is more, we have a number of special touches that build on our “Gather Around: Stories of the Season” theme. In the East Garden Room, you’ll see Christmas trees made entirely of stacks of books. You may have seen those coming in, they’re very cool. In the Cross Hall, you’ll see trees reflecting the idea of gathering around our heritage. They’ll be decorated with ornaments representing great American sites like the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, and there’s some silhouettes of people you might know today in history, so you guys will look and see if you recognize anyone.
And of course, we have our usual first dog display. This year, Bo will be joined by his little sister Sunny, our new pup, and the two of them will be surrounded by books. And I was surprised to see last night, this year they actually move. They’re mechanical. This is a new step. We’re stepping up in the world of Bo-and-Sunny honoring. And these are just a few of this year’s highlights.
Although people who visit the White House will see dozens of trees and wreaths, they’re going to see thousands of ornaments and they’re going to see a gingerbread house that weighs about 300 pounds — it’s pretty big — some of the best sights they’ll see are kids enjoying all of this just wonderful glory. Some of the best times in this White House is just watching the faces of kids as they walk through this house and count the trees and look at the ornaments.
And none of this would be possible without the 83 volunteers like Diane who came from all across the country to help us decorate, once again, sacrificing, leaving their families — because they start decorating this house the day after Thanksgiving. It would not be possible for us to do all of this without our volunteers. They are a pleasure to work with, they are high-energy, they are positive. And just look around. I mean, every year they just outdo themselves. So we are just so grateful for their hard work and enthusiasm.
Now, over the course of this season, about 70,000 people will come to see our holiday decorations — not bad. And I can’t imagine a better group of people than all of you to be our very first guests. Don’t you feel special? No one has seen these, not even the President has seen these. (Applause.) He hasn’t seen them yet. You guys are the first.
And truly, it is a treat to make you all the first every season, because you all do so much for us. And we are so proud and so honored and so grateful. And we just want to give you a chance to bring your families in to just get a little special something just to remind you just how special we all think you are.
So I want you all to enjoy every minute in this house. I’m going to stop right now because we’ve got a little something we’re going to do with the kids. All the kids, you guys think you’re ready to go have some fun?
MRS. OBAMA: I’m going to take your kids. (Laughter.) And don’t worry, nothing can be broken that can’t be repaired. I guarantee you my kids have broken it if it can be broken. And we’re going to go and do some decorating. Our chefs and our bakers and our florists — they’re over there — they’ve got special little things that you can make, little gifts. You guys ready for that?
CHILD: Yes, ma’am!
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, ma’am! (Laughter.) I love that. So why don’t you guys get up. You guys can come and go with me. Parents, you guys hang out. Get some cider, some cookies, look at the ornaments. Breathe a little bit. They’re in good hands. I guarantee you we will not lose them — but I can’t guarantee you they will come back clean. (Laughter.) That’s the only thing I can’t guarantee, so if you want pictures of them clean, do it now. (Laughter.)
And thank you. Have a happy holiday, from my family to all of yours. Enjoy this holiday season. Be safe, be happy. And gather round together, and remember what this is all about.
You all, take care. Love you much. (Applause.)