The White House unveiled its holiday decorations on Monday, going along with the theme selected this year by first lady Jill Biden, who titled her inspiration “Gifts from the Heart.”
East Wing communications director Elizabeth Alexander told CNN the idea for Biden’s theme was to showcase “things that unite and heal, and bring us together.” Biden and the East Wing began planning for the holiday decorations in early summer, narrowing the ideas and beginning to visualize how it would come to fruition.
In each of the public rooms of the White House – which remains closed to visitors due to the Covid-19 pandemic – there is an individual representation of the theme. The Library Room, with decorations of butterflies, reflects the “gift of learning,” while the Vermeil Room notes the “gift of the visual arts” with Christmas wreaths made of paint-dipped paintbrushes and a tree of Pantone color sample ornaments.
In the China Room, which displays the official china settings of previous presidential administrations year-round, a table was set “Nana style,” according to Alexander, a nod to Biden’s favorite family dinners, with centerpieces of candles and flowers. On the room’s trees, which had a “gift of friendship and caring” theme, ornaments of paper hands forming circles and stars hung, an idea that was also the first lady’s, said Alexander.
In the State Dining Room, two large trees were decorated with framed photographs of former first families at the White House during the holidays, and several images from the Biden’s private archive that have never before been seen publicly.
“The first lady spent the last several weekends when she was home in Delaware looking through photo albums and picking her favorites,” said Alexander.
There were photos from previous administrations, pulled from the White House archives: the Kennedys, the Clintons, the Johnsons, the Reagans – tucked on the backside of one of the trees was one small, framed photograph of Donald and Melania Trump.
Though more subdued than in recent years – and minus controversies such as red trees – the display is Biden’s nod to tradition, and carrying on with personal touchstones, even as the country feels the impact of change and loss due to the ravages of Covid-19, says Alexander.
The fireplace in the State Dining Room features six stockings for each Biden grandchild, knitted by the same Delaware artisan as the actual Biden family stockings.