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White House celebrates quieter holiday season with low-key parties

Decorations hang in the hallway off the China Room at the White House. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
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If you haven’t heard much about the White House holiday parties, that’s because the celebrations – what with the lingering aftermath of the government shutdown and the botched Obamacare Web site rollout – appear to be more low-key this year.

There were fewer receptions and guests this year because Thanksgiving was so late, leaving less time to squeeze holiday parties into an already crowded agenda. The White House hosted more than a dozen events – often one in the afternoon and one in the evening – for 13,000 guests: Volunteers, members of Congress, White House staff members, the Secret Service, White House reporters and other Americans were treated to groaning buffets and the historic White House eggnog.

But the only real news came Dec. 5 when first lady Michelle Obama unveiled the Christmas decorations to military families and the media. The Internet went crazy, as the Internet is wont to do, with reports that the Obamas’ puppy, Sunny, had knocked down a toddler during the party . . . reports that happened not to be true.

In the spirit of the season and goodwill toward dogs, let’s set the record straight: As Sunny greeted children at the party, Ashtyn Gardner, 2, turned around to see the puppy, then stepped back and tripped over the walker of a child next to her. Ashtyn was fine – she and Sunny bonded over a doggy face lick seconds later – but photos of the tumble flashed round the world faster than Santa’s sleigh.

Speaking of goodwill: There was quiet grumbling about the fact that members of Congress missed out on much-needed face time with President Obama last week. Members were invited to two holiday parties (instead of the traditional one) on Monday and Tuesday nights so they would have plenty of time to mingle with the president and administration officials. But, alas, it was not meant to be: Tuesday’s memorial in South Africa for Nelson Mandela required the Obamas to miss both parties – which went ahead as scheduled with Vice President and Jill Biden subbing as hosts.

There were unconfirmed reports that the Obamas also eliminated the holiday photo line at some of the events – you know, when they pose for hours and hours as guests snake through a very long line to be photographed with them. It’s part of the job, of course, but it can’t be much fun. And yet they appeared to be in good spirits last week, especially when families with kids came through the line.

Real fun? That would be spending the holidays in Hawaii. For the sixth straight year, the first family will celebrate the  holidays at Kailua, Hawaii News Now reports. The Obamas are scheduled to leave Friday and return after New Year’s Day – and this time, there’s no messy budget battle to crash the party.

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