The 18-and-a-half foot Fraser fir tree was brought up to the north portico of the executive mansion in a carriage drawn by Clydesdale horses, and presented by Rusty and Beau Estes, from Peak Farms of Jefferson North Carolina – their third time providing a tree for the White House.
Tradition dictates that the first lady inspects the tree and Dr Biden did, describing it as “beautiful” and “magnificent, actually”, before snapping off a sprig and handing it to her grandson Beau, who was nearby being held by his father Hunter Biden.
The fir will now be taken to the Blue Room of the White House – which has its chandelier removed to accommodate the tree – and it, as well as many of the other rooms and hallways, will be decorated in a theme selected by the first lady.
This tradition, started by Jackie Kennedy in 1961, always attracts great scrutiny from tastemakers and political tea-leaf readers alike, keen to search for hidden (or not-so-hidden messages) in the year’s chosen motif.
While the decorations selected by a new first lady always attract heightened attention, observers are keen to see how Ms Biden’s choices weigh up against her predecessor’s somewhat unique take on Christmas and reported dislike of being in charge of decorating for the holiday.
For her fourth and final Christmas in the White House, first lady Melania Trump did choose to play it safe with a traditional, patriotic theme of “America the Beautiful” with references to faith, love, military families, and first responders at the height of the coronavirus pandemic – there was even a cameo by JFK.
Ms Trump doubled down on 2019’s theme “Spirit of America” with a warmer, less edgy display throughout the executive mansion in 2020. The unveiling followed the release in October 2020 of a recording of the first lady complaining “who gives a f*** about Christmas stuff” by her former friend and employee Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.
“Give me a f****** break. I’m working like a—my a** off at Christmas stuff that, you know,” she said. “Who gives a f*** about Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right? Correct?”
In her first two years decorating the executive mansion, her efforts attracted a great deal of scorn and ridicule for being cold and bleak.
In 2018, the display included a hall of blood-red trees described as something out of The Handmaid’s Tale or The Shining; and 2017’s avenue of stark white branches was likened to “the upside-down” in Stranger Things and described as a “nuclear winter wonderland”.
On Twitter, people greeted the arrival of this year’s Christmas tree with great expectation for how Dr Biden’s choices might contrast with the Trump years.
Mike Sington, a former executive at NBC, tweeted: “After four years, thanks to First Lady Jill Biden, a normal, happy Christmas returns to the White House. It’s the end of Melania Trump’s dark, dystopian Christmases of ‘I’m working my a** off on Christmas stuff. Who gives a f**k about Christmas?’”
Others piled on saying they cannot wait to see how the first lady decorates “after the morbid, dark, I hate Christmas decor of Melania it’s sure to be a major improvement.”
“Grateful Melania Trump’s Christmas horror show is gone,” said one person.
“Merry Christmas, such a wonderful start to the season! Thank you for bringing back a normal American Christmas to the White House, it was missed for a few years!” wrote another.
One person joked: “Dr. Jill Biden officially ends Melania’s four-year war on f’ing Christmas.”
The White House decorations and theme are traditionally unveiled after the Thanksgiving holiday. The tradition of the official White House Christmas tree dates back to the presidency of Benjamin Harrison in 1889.
Meanwhile, on display to the public, the National Christmas tree is a large living fir tree on the north side of the ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument.
It will be lit on 5 December and the ceremony always features a host of musical artists, this year including LL Cool J, Billy Porter, Chris Stapleton, HER, Juanes, Keb’ Mo’, Kristin Chenoweth, Maren Morris, and Patti LaBelle.
Howard University Gospel Choir and the US Army Band Downrange will also perform.
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