White House offers holiday online tours
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With the help of some innovative technology, Americans will be able to see the elaborate holiday decorations at the White House after all -- via the Internet.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer announced the "historic first" -- a 360-degree online tour of the "Home for the Holidays" presentation at the White House. The tour is available at www.whitehouse.gov/holiday/
"The technology used allows visitors to scroll up and around the state rooms and to see an in-depth and detailed look at the decorations. We hope this will allow millions of Americans on the Internet to see the White House," Fleischer said.
The state rooms include the East Room, the State Dining Room, the Blue Room, the Red Room, the Green Room and the Center and Cross halls.
He called the IPIX technology "pretty remarkable," saying it allows "people to be as close as possible these days to being in the room and to see the sights. It's a panoramic 360 degree view -- it's pretty impressive."
The White House was closed to tours for security reasons in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
In more holiday news, Fleischer announced the president and first lady will light a menorah in the residence area of the White House to mark the first day of Hannukah Monday evening. The menorah, which is more than 100 years old and of Polish origin, is on loan from the Jewish Museum in New York for the duration of Hannukah.
The Bushes also will host Jewish leaders at a Hannukah reception Monday night. Fleischer said he believes this will be the first time a Hannukah reception has been held in the residence, rather than the state rooms.
Finally, President Bush decided on the perfect gift for many federal employees this year -- an extra day off from work. Bush signed an executive order Wednesday night closing federal government executive branch departments and agencies on Monday, December 24.
Fleischer said the move is "a show of appreciation and to support federal employees and their families" and would give them a four-day weekend. "Federal employees have shown remarkable strength and courage through the stressful times since the attacks on September 11. The president encourages federal employees to enjoy the holidays and spend time with their families"
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