There is something very special about Christmas decor that captures not only the natural beauty that comes with the season - holly, magnolia leaves, spruce, pine - but also the resplendent strands of holiday lights and the warm glow of candlelight.
With a year filled with challenges for all of us, First Lady Melania Trump and her team of talented florists and decorators adeptly captured the right tone with this year's Christmas decorations for Christmas at The White House 2020. If ever there were a time to breathe in the natural beauty of our country, and appreciate its bounty of natural wonder, this would be the year, themed appropriately, America the Beautiful.
Entering via the East Colonnade we were greeted by tall classical urns all of which held a profusion of American green foliage representing each region of the country with branches of official state and territory trees. Like grand sentinels, they lined the windowed hallway, with stature and sublime elegance.
The Vermeil Room and Library were salutes to the first work by an African-American artist (Alma Thomas, Resurrection,1966) to be acquired by The White House and the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment putting a spotlight on women who impacted the nation with their work in gender equality. The China Room was a sweet and warm depiction with stockings over the fireplace, cozy seating and a traditional tree marking the simplicity and warmth of a family Christmas.
I am no stranger to the East Room as I have had several occasions over my lifetime to be a guest in this most spectacular of rooms - and so I knew I would not be disappointed. The brilliant light from the gleaming crystal chandeliers always reaches visitors in the hallway long before entering the room.
Light dances everywhere from the chandeliers and sconces to the mirrors - then back to the strands and strands of twinkle lights on the trees. Racing between the branches are cars, air planes of various eras strung from the ceiling and a spectacular train set holding court on a long table in the middle of the room.
This year's focus in the East Room is a salute to America 'on the move.' Celebrating America's monumental triumphs from the first Transcontinental Railroad to the Lunar Landing is the focus of the themed decor. Naturally, as someone fond of the our coastal areas of the country, particularly the south, I lingered over the gorgeous mantel decor featuring a frigate, sailboats and pleasure crafts.
Of all the rooms of which I am personally familiar, the Green Room is my eternal favorite and may well be my favorite thematically this Christmas. Themed as a salute to our country's wildlife, birds and butterflies fluttered on the tree in the center of the room, window vignettes showcased a stag in one and a great blue heron in the other. The warmth of the verdant green walls and the precious nod to our country's native creatures made me wish I could stay and linger.
Likely the most recognizable room for most Americans when it comes to a White House Christmas, the Blue Room, boats an over-18 foot Fraser fir. Truly, the center of attention (other than the view which overlooks the South lawn, Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial!), this fabulous tree from West Virginia is festooned in large swaths of yellow ribbon. Children from all over the country contributed artistic ornaments depicting, to them, that which captures the essence of their particular state.
The Red Room is the perfect embrace to showcase a salute to America's first responders and frontline workers. These selfless workers, at the heart of our communities around the country, are remembered throughout the room in the handcrafted ornaments and mantel displays. In an exclusive interview in Magnolia Blue's Part II of The White House Christmas 2020, with Texas florist Amanda Barkley, one of the volunteers florists behind the magic, we will reveal even more about this beautiful and meaningful theme.
Gilded eagles, cream roses, made gold in the light, and a sugary, sparkly White House made of 275 pounds of gingerbread dough, 110 pounds of pastillage dough, 30 pounds of gum paste, 25 pounds of chocolate (!) and 25 pounds of royal icing greet visitors in the State Dining Room. Featured in this year's gingerbread version of the People's House, for the first time, is the Rose Garden, the restoration of which has been a project of the First Lady's.
It is always an honor to walk the historic hallways of The White House. For reasons due to my father's work and, later, news organizations to which I belonged as a professional, I've had the privilege of attending White House events, or have a simple 'sit' on a staircase as I waited on my father, since I was about two years old. As an adult, I appreciate the unique opportunity even more to share in its subdued, classic grandeur and marvel at the history these walls have witnessed.
Christmas at the White House 2020 thematically demonstrates, in meaningful, organic, and intimate ways how very much this really is The People's House.
(Please join me @southernskiesnrisingtides on Instagram for more photos of this gorgeous White House tour. If you'd like to see a photo essay with more images, let me know in the comments and come back for Magnolia Blue: Christmas at The White House Part II!).