Ninety-eight Christmas trees, more than 142,000 twinkling lights and nearly 34,000 ornaments deck the halls of the White House in ways that first ladyhopes will inspire visitors to embrace their inner child and experience the "magic, wonder and joy" of the season. It's her theme for the .
"I don't know how you feel, but I feel it's just breathtaking," the first lady said to applause and cheers during an event unveiling the White House's holiday decorations. "The holidays offer a time for reflection and a break from our hurried lives, a season to be fully present with our friends and our families."
She thanked the "hundreds of volunteer decorators and designers" who made this year's display possible.
"Children have something to teach us, if we are wise enough to listen," the first lady said. "How to remain present, even as a busy world beckons us. How to open ourselves up to love and wonder and to marvel at every moment, no matter how ordinary."
Throughout the décor are numerous nods to the 200th anniversary of the publication in 1823 of the poem and book "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."
The Library of Congress provided samples of editions from the past 200 years that are on display along the ground floor corridor.
The traditional gingerbread White House recreates the classic story by featuring a sugar cookie replica of the book along with Santa's sleigh flying above the grounds. Santa's sleigh and his reindeer are also suspended above the Grand Foyer.
The White House released a fact sheet and was allowing the news media to see all the trees, lights and ornaments before the first lady's event. National Guard families, who were joining the first lady as part of Joining Forces, her White House initiative to show appreciation for military families, were among the first members of the public to see the decorations.
Children of these and other military families were also to be treated to a performance by the cast of the North American tour of the Disney musical "Frozen." The White House estimates it will welcome roughly 100,000 visitors throughout the holiday season.
One of the first Christmas trees visitors will see is decorated with wooden gold star ornaments engraved with the names of fallen service members.
The official White House Christmas tree, an 18.5-foot-tall Fraser fir, takes itsin the Blue Room, where the chandelier has to be taken down to accommodate its height. The massive tree this year celebrates cheerful scenes, landscapes and neighborhoods from across the country.
The State Dining Room has been transformed into Santa's workshop, with elves' workbenches, stools and ladders circling the Christmas trees and tools and gifts-in-progress rounding out the décor.
The dining room is also the customary stage for the gingerbread White House, made using 40 sheets each of sugar cookie dough and gingerbread dough, 90 pounds of pastillage, a cake decorating paste, 30 pounds of chocolate and 50 pounds of royal icing.
The library honors the tradition of bedtime stories with golden moons and shimmering stars dangling overhead while the China Room becomes a sweet shop featuring flavors and scents of the season wafting from the holiday cakes, cookies and gingerbread filling the space.
The official White House Menorah is on display in the Cross Hall, which runs between the State Dining Room and the East Room.
"In this season of reflection and goodwill, we hope you will embrace your inner child and delight in simply being present with those you love," President Biden and the first lady wrote in a welcome letter in the commemorative 2023 White House Holiday Guide. "It is a time for our senses to awaken — for each of us to smell the aroma of favorite family recipes, to hear the warmth of a dear friend's voice, to see the glow of lights and decorations, to taste the sweetness of candies and treats, and to feel the quiet stillness and strength of faith."
In her prepared remarks, the first lady said she knows that magic, wonder and joy can be hard to find, especially as the days grow shorter, the weather turns colder "and our hearts grow heavy in the face of a tumultuous world."
"But it's in these times, when we are searching for hope and healing, that we need those points of light the most, that we need each other the most," she said. "It's in these times that I hope you remember, if even just for a moment or a season, how you saw the world as a child."
Nearly 15,000 feet of ribbon, more than 350 candles and over 22,000 bells were used for the decorations, the White House said. More than 142,425 lights twinkle on trees, garlands, wreaths and other displays.
Seventy-two wreaths sporting red ribbons adorn the north and south exteriors of the White House.
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