Washington — Drawing decorating inspiration from America's founding documents, Jill Biden chose a "We the People" theme to deck the White House halls and to remind Americans of what unites them throughout the year, especially during the holidays.
The first lady unveiled the transformational work of a small army of volunteer decorators during an event at the White House on Monday. Journalists were given a sneak peek earlier in the day.
As part of Joining Forces, her White House initiative to support military families, Biden was joined by National Guard leaders from across the country, as well as National Guard families. Her late son, Beau Biden, was a major in the Delaware Army National Guard.
"I've seen it everywhere I've gone. When our country comes together, we are stronger," she said. "What we share is so much greater than the things that pull us apart. The soul of our nation is, and has always been, 'we the people.'"
The decorations include more than 83,000 twinkling lights on trees, garlands, wreaths and other displays, 77 Christmas trees and 25 wreaths on the exterior of the executive mansion.
A copy of the Declaration of Independence is on display in the library, while the always-show-stopping gingerbread White House includes a sugar cookie replica of Philadelphia's Independence Hall, where the Constitution and Declaration of Independence were signed. The Constitution opens with the phrase, "We the People."
A new addition this year is a menorah, used in Jewish worship, that was built by White House carpenters from wood that was removed during a Truman-era renovation. The menorah is located on the State Floor.
Some 50,000 visitors are expected to pass through the White House during the holidays, including tourists and guests invited to various receptions. Among them will be French President Emmanuel Macron, who is scheduled to meet with President Biden on Thursday and be honored that evening at a White House state dinner, the first of the Biden administration.
More than 150 volunteers began decorating the interior and the exterior of the White House last week and continued through the Thanksgiving holiday. Planning began in the spring.
Illustrations of the family pets — dog Commander and cat Willow — can be found in the Vermeil Room, where the décor represents different ways of showing kindness and gratitude.
Groupings of snowy trees fill corners of the East Room, which reflects nature and recreation. Four well-known national parks are depicted on the fireplace mantels: Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah.
In the Blue Room, the official White House Christmas tree — an 18 1/2-foot Concolor fir from Auburn, Pennsylvania — is decorated to represent unity and hope with handmade renderings of the official birds from all 57 territories, states and the District of Columbia.
The State Dining Room is dedicated to the next generation — children — and trees there are decorated with ornaments that are self-portraits of the students of the 2021 Teachers of the Year, "ensuring that children see themselves" in the décor, the White House said.
Hanging from the fireplace in the State Dining Room are the Biden family Christmas stockings.
The gingerbread White House was made using 20 sheets of sugar cookie dough, 30 sheets of gingerbread dough, 100 pounds of pastillage, 30 pounds of chocolate and 40 pounds of royal icing.
"We the People" are celebrated in the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall on the State Floor, where metal ribbons also are inscribed with the names of all the states, territories and the District of Columbia.
"Mirrored ornaments and reflective surfaces ensure that visitors can see themselves in the décor, noting that the strength of our country — the Soul of our Nation — comes from 'We the People,'" the White House said.
The White House noted that the holiday guide book visitors will receive was designed this year by Las Vegas-based Daria Peoples, who is Black. Peoples is a former elementary school teacher who has written and illustrated a series of picture books to support children of color, including those who have experienced race-based trauma.
Kristin Brown contributed reporting.
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