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Christmas At The White House

First lady Laura Bush launched the White House Christmas season Wednesday by receiving the official holiday tree and promising a video peek at the decorations since public tours have been canceled.

"This is the very first step in a very exciting Christmas season," Mrs. Bush said as a horse-drawn wagon pulled up to the south entrance of the White House to deliver an 18-foot Cocolor fir tree from Pennsylvania.

In past years, the tree, displayed in the ceremonial Blue Room, was a centerpiece for the public White House holiday tours showing off elaborate Christmas decorations. But those tours were canceled this year as a security precaution after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

The first lady said she would make a video tour that would be played in the White House Visitors Center, in addition to leading the annual press preview of the decorations.

The first lady would also give television interviews aimed at providing a Christmas glimpse into the White House, said Mrs. Bush's spokeswoman, Noelia Rodriguez.

"We want to be able to -- since America can't come to the White House -- take the White House to America through the medium of television," Rodriguez said.

The theme of the decorations, to be installed over the next four days, will be "Home for the Holidays." They will feature miniature models of the homes of former presidents, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

The theme was chosen before September eleventh -- but has taken on new significance since.

"This season, especially, this Christmas season, when we will be dealing with issues that none of us expected to be dealing with, being with our families around the Christmas tree, all the different traditions and rituals ... are more important than ever," Mrs. Bush said.

She urged Americans to remember U.S. troops overseas who would not be home for the holidays and families who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attacks.

"This is also a good time for all of us to reflect on all the reasons we're thankful for being Americans," she said. "Go to work in our communities. Fill the food banks and make sure every American gets to celebrate a happy holiday."

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