A team of draft horses recently made a special delivery to the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off the Christmas season receiving a 19-foot Douglas fir as the official White House Christmas tree.
“Christmas begins. The holidays start,” Mrs. Obama exclaimed after accepting the tree from Dave and Mary Vander Velden, owners of an Oconto, Wisconsin, tree farm. “We’re ready. Our last one. We’re excited about it.”
The Vander Veldens won the National Christmas Tree Association’s contest, earning the honor of supplying the White House with its official Christmas tree. Contest winners have provided the White House tree annually since 1966.
First lady Lou Henry Hoover started the custom of decorating an official White House tree in 1929. The tradition of selecting a theme for the Blue Room tree began in 1961, during John F. Kennedy’s administration. That year’s tree was decorated with objects depicting characters and toys from “The Nutcracker.”
The tree resides in the Blue Room serving as the Christmas centerpiece for the White House. This year’s theme is “The Gift of the Holidays” is meant to encourage people to reflect on “the true gifts of life,” such as service, friends and family, education and good health. The tree features mirrored ornaments and garland with the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. Besides the Blue Room tree, a second tree downstairs is decorated with gold ornaments in honor of service members who gave their lives for the country.
Ochan, a military spouse originally from Uganda, said it was “most exciting” to help decorate the Blue Room tree.
“I know how it feels not to have your loved one home with you for the holidays,” she said.
More than 90 volunteer decorators from across the nation begin decorating in early December. The work is not all glamorous, volunteers haul boxes, unpacking decorations, make bows, hang lights and trim the trees, 63 trees. Their hard work culminates into a holiday extravaganza including; 56 Lego Gingerbread Houses (200,000 individual bricks), 65,000 ornaments, 25,000 yarn pompoms, 8,000 bows, 7,500 strands of ribbon, 1,245 feet of garland, 109 wreaths, 63 trees and 32 snowmen.
Edited from the Following Sources: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/correction-white-house-christmas-tree-story/2016/12/01/b7b280a2-b7f5-11e6-939c-91749443c5e5_story.html?utm_term=.7ed557b3b8c2, http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/see-the-white-houses-2016-christmas-decorations-photos-w452771, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_House_Christmas_tree http://wtop.com/dc/2016/11/white-house-christmas-theme-the-gift-of-the-holidays/slide/1/, https://www.whitehousehistory.org/christmas-traditions-at-the-white-house, http://www.vogue.com/13507059/white-house-christmas-decorations-2016-by-the-numbers/