‘Magic, Wonder and Joy’ of the Holidays Captivate at the White House
First lady unveils themed decor and brings back ice skating on the South Lawn.
The holidays at the White House were unwrapped this week with an eye to capture how children are enchanted by the season. First Lady Dr. Jill Biden’s themed decor — “Magic, Wonder and Joy” — illuminates a countdown to Christmas with nostalgia and yuletide in the form of: 142,425 holiday lights; 33,892 ornaments; 22,100 bells; 14,975 feet of ribbon; 350 candles; 98 Christmas trees; 72 classic wreaths. And … one holiday ice rink lit up on the South Lawn.
“When I was growing up, during winter, my sisters and I would ice skate on the frozen canals of the Delaware River,” Biden said during the unveiling. “We spent hours gliding across the glistening ice, our cheeks pink from the cold. And in those hours, what was normally an ordinary town and bridge, transformed into a bright, sparkling landscape, glittering as if covered in magic.”
That’s how children often see the world this time of year, Biden added, and that feeling is what inspired the “Magic, Wonder, and Joy” theme inside and outside the White House.
Biden opened the ice rink with a skating performance by the 1988 Olympic Gold Medalist Brian Boitano and Peanuts character “Snoopy.” The 50-by-70-foot rink will operate throughout December for invited Washington, D.C.-area schoolchildren and children from families with service members, frontline workers, first responders and teachers, according to the Associated Press.
The last time there was ice skating on the White House grounds was in December 1980, when former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who was laid to rest on Wednesday, invited Olympian Peggy Flemming to participate in White House Christmas receptions for the United States Secret Service, White House military aides, and White House staff, according to the White House Historical Association.
Earlier this week, Biden continued the White House tradition of ushering in the season by showcasing the indoor holiday decor. Standing in front of the 18-foot-tall, official White House Christmas tree, Biden spoke of the Gold Star tree, the first tree featured in the White House, which is adorned with the names of fallen service members.
And suspended above the Grand Foyer, Biden highlighted a bright red, present-filled sleigh guided by eight reindeer made from papier mache.
"I don't know how you feel but I feel it's just breathtaking," she said, who also pointed out the official White House Menorah using reclaimed beams from the White House from the Truman era.
It was First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy who began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room in 1961, according to the White House Historical Association. That year, the tree was decorated with ornamental toys, birds, angels, and characters from the "Nutcracker Suite" ballet. And, although previous presidential administrations displayed Christmas trees indoors throughout the State Floor, it was First Lady Mamie Eisenhower who consistently placed a tree in the Blue Room, where the official White House Christmas tree is displayed.
More photos of the White House decorations can be viewed here.
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