Amid the festive sparkle of 37 Christmas trees and a 400-pound gingerbread White House, Michelle Obama honored military families as she unveiled her 2011 holiday decor.
The “Shine, Give, Share” theme was reflected in the East Room’s shimmering quartz ornaments and the silver pine cones in the Entrance Hall. The stately 1767 portrait of Ben Franklin in the Green Room looked curiously out at the recycled aluminum trees adorning antique tables. The first lady added some glitter to the Wednesday afternoon event as well, wearing a black knit dress with a sparkly white collar.
Two trees honoring military Gold Star families (those who have lost loved ones) and Blue Star families (those with family serving) were the focus of Obama’s remarks to the military parents, spouses and children gathered for the event. “Not everyone in America knows what a Blue Star or Gold Star family is,” she said. “I know for some of you, this holiday season will be tough.”
Then there was Bo, truly top dog of the Obamas’ Christmas. While the Clintons offered cookies shaped like Socks the cat and the Bushes coaxed their Scottish terrier to star in holiday “Barney Cams,” the Obamas put a replica of the first dog in every room. There’s a “topiary” Bo made of eco-friendly trash-bag strips in the library, a Bo made of black buttons in the Red Room and black-licorice-and-felt Bos throughout the public rooms. And guess who wormed his way onto the Obamas’ holiday card this year? Bo — sitting alone by the library hearth, his famous owners nowhere in sight.
“So trust me, our dog has been a little confused walking around the house for the last couple of weeks, seeing himself in gigantic form,” the first lady told the crowd.
After her remarks, she led the smallest partygoers, dressed in their holiday best, past the Blue Room’s official White House Christmas tree, which is decorated with medals and badges as well as cards created by military children. They were on their way to the State Dining Room, where craft stations had been set up. Kids made Bo ornaments from licorice and decorated gingerbread cookies shaped like houses, cheered on by Obama and White House chief floral designer Laura Dowling, chef Cris Comerford and pastry chef Bill Yosses.
Boxes were provided for the children to take their creations home, but many gobbled down their precious souvenirs instead.
Among the guests and volunteers at Wednesday’s event was Jennifer Jackman, who lost her son Ryan, a first lieutenant in the Marines, in 2007. She came from Kansas to help decorate the Gold Star tree.
“I personalized a ceramic star and placed it on the tree along with his photo and a message: ‘My Son, My Hero, My Marine,’ ” Jackman said.
The White House says it expects to host 85,000 holiday visitors on tours this month and entertain about 12,000 volunteers, members of Congress, White House staff, Secret Service personnel and others at parties. Eight artists from the Corcoran College of Art and Design were chosen to illustrate the official 2011 White House holiday guide book that is handed out to visitors.
The signal it was time for the event to end? Bo was brought in for a photo op with his fans.
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