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White House Holiday Decorations Unveiled To Military Families

WASHINGTON (AP) -- First dog Bo is upstaging the Christmas decorations at the White House this holiday season.

The Obamas' Portuguese water dog is in almost every room of the public tour, ranging from a miniature licorice and marshmallow version to a felt design 4 1/2-feet tall.

First lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the first viewing of the 2011 decorations on Wednesday. "Shine, Give, Share" is the theme for the Obama family's third Christmas in the mansion. The theme translates throughout the public viewing space from gold foil leaf trimming to shiny quartz ornaments.

Several decorations honor military families including a Gold Star Families Tree with ceramic gold ornaments carrying personalized messages by families. Tour visitors can also create handwritten notes for the troops.

The usual centerpiece of Christmas at the White House is the official tree, an 18 1/2-feet tall balsam fir in the Blue Room. The tree is decorated with holiday cards created by military children, medals, badges and patches from all the military branches.

"I want to thank all of the troops, all of our veterans and all of our military families," Mrs. Obama said at the unveiling. "Your service and sacrifice inspire us all."

The Red Room features fruit, foliage and flowers set in pepperberry- and cranberry-covered vases and a 9 1/2-inch tall Bo replica made of buttons.

Denver caterer and event planner David Bondarchuck, who designed the Green Room decorations, said he wanted to enhance the "simple beauty" of the room. "I didn't want to overdo it," he said. The room was decorated with various hues of green with a bit of "sparkle and shine" including pine cones, twigs, and clear and silver ornaments, he said.

The family dog, Bo, made a special appearance in the State Dining Room as military children created holiday ornaments and decorated cookies with the White House chefs Cristeta Comerford and Bill Yosses, and White House florist Laura Dowling.

Mrs. Obama drew a laugh from the crowd when she said Bo, "the most famous member of the Obama family," has been a little confused walking around the house and seeing himself in "gigantic form."

A total of 37 Christmas trees and a 400-pound White House made of gingerbread, white chocolate and marzipan also decorate the executive mansion. Some of the handcrafted decorations are made of paper, felt and recycled cans.

Approximately 85,000 visitors are expected to tour the Christmas decorations this December, the White House said. More than 100 holiday volunteers assisted with the decorations.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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