‘Gifts from the Heart’: Biden White House Christmas decorations unveiled

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WASHINGTON (AP) — “Gifts from the Heart” is the theme of President Joe Biden’s first White House Christmas.

First lady Jill Biden was scheduled on Monday to unveil decorations matching the theme, said to be inspired by people the couple met as they traveled the country this year.

“The things we hold sacred unite us and transcend distance, time, and even the constraints of a pandemic: faith, family, and friendship; a love of the arts, learning, and nature; gratitude, service, and community; unity and peace,” the Bidens write in a commemorative 2021 White House holiday guidebook. “These are the gifts that tie together the heart strings of our lives. These are the gifts from the heart.”

The decor features a gigantic gingerbread White House that recognizes front-line workers who persevered through the coronavirus pandemic, while the official Christmas tree — an 18-foot-tall (5.5-meter tall) Fraser fir — celebrates the gifts of peace and unity, the White House said.

With the Bidens spending Thanksgiving week in Nantucket, Massachusetts, more than 100 volunteers set about decorating the executive mansion — including the Oval Office — with 41 Christmas trees, some 6,000 feet (2,000 yards) of ribbon and more than 10,000 ornaments.

Twenty-five wreaths adorn the north and south sides of the building, and nearly 79,000 lights illuminate the Christmas trees, garlands, wreaths and other holiday displays.

Jill Biden has invited a second grade class from Malcolm Elementary School in Waldorf, Maryland, to help her reveal the decorations, the White House said. PBS KIDS characters Martin and Chris Kratt from the program “Wild Kratts” will also be on hand.

Before a PBS puppet show for the schoolkids, the first lady will read her 2012 children’s book, “Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops,” and deliver remarks thanking the team of volunteer decorators.

She also invited a local National Guard family to highlight the role the Guard has played in the U.S. response to COVID-19, as well as military families spending the holidays away from loved ones.

Reporters will tour the decorated White House before the formal unveiling.

“As we celebrate our first holiday season in the White House, we are inspired by the Americans we have met across the country, time and again reminding us that our differences are precious and our similarities infinite,” the Bidens wrote. “We wish you a happy, healthy, and joyous holiday season. As we look to a new year full of possibility, may gifts from the heart light our path forward.”

On Sunday, Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, marked the start of Hanukkah, by helping to light the National Menorah on the Ellipse.

The official White House Christmas tree, always set up in the Blue Room, is decorated with peace doves carrying a banner embossed with the names of the 50 states and the U.S. territories. Jill Biden tweeted a photo of the tree early Monday.

The Gingerbread White House, which weighs hundreds of pounds, includes eight detailed replicas of community buildings that represent front-line workers.

The White House may see less foot traffic this holiday season as public tours remain suspended due to COVID-19, but videos, photos and details about the Christmas decorations are to be made available for viewing at WhiteHouse.gov/Holidays.

Still to come throughout the holiday season are various interactive viewing experiences to be made available on Instagram, Google Maps Street View, Snapchat and other platforms, the White House said.

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