Washington holiday season begins with arrival of White House Christmas tree
The Washington holiday season had a festive start Friday when First Lady Michelle Obama presided over the arrival of the White House Christmas tree – a balsam fir from Wisconsin.
The picturesque scene, outside the North Portico of the White House facing Pennsylvania Avenue, offered a sharp contrast to scattered reports of violence – including one shooting and one incident of pepper spraying – that accompanied the predawn start of Black Friday shopping at malls around the country.
At 11:09 a.m. a green wagon loaded with a 19 foot-tall balsam fir was pulled up the White House driveway by two horses with wreathes and red bows around their necks. A Marine Band brass quintet struck up the German carol “O Tannenbaum” (O Christmas Tree) as Mrs. Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha, and first dog Bo walked out the mansion’s front door.
After inspecting the tree, the Obamas posed for pictures with Sue and Tom Schroder whose Wisconsin farm – dubbed Schroeder’s Forevergreens – grew this year’s tree. After several minutes, the Obamas headed back into the White House. As she left, Mrs. Obama told the assembled reporters and news photographers, “You all take care. Happy holidays.”
The arrival of the tree marks the beginning of a very active period at the White House, which last year hosted some 20 holiday parties and receptions involving 12,000 guests. In addition, some 100,000 visitors toured the mansion during the season when it is filled with Christmas decorations and the official tree is displayed in the Blue Room.
The full holiday party schedule for 2011 has not been announced. But some invitations – featuring the presidential seal surrounded by a green holiday wreath and a big red bow – have already gone out.
The First Lady’s office said Friday that military families would be the first to see this year's holiday decorations. She will host a special gathering for them November 30 where she will speak, and the White House chefs and florist will talk about holiday decorations and food. The theme of this year’s Blue Room Christmas tree will be honoring Blue star families, the White House said. Blue Star families are those who have a member serving in the military during a time of war.
Mrs. Obama’s office also said Gold Star families will take part in decorating a special Gold Star tree that will be placed at the visitors’ entrance to the East Wing. Guests at White House holiday events enter through the East Wing entrance near where Mrs. Obama's office is located. Gold Star families are those who have a relative killed while serving in the Armed Forces in wartime.