“The Spirit of America” is bright, peaceful and bold in the beautiful 2019 White House Christmas decorations selected by First Lady Melania Trump.
Walking through the White House this year, one cannot help but be reminded of our nation’s proud heritage and take special pride in being inside the People’s House. The White House said she chose the decorations to “celebrate the courageous individuals who have shaped our country and kept the American spirit alive.”
What has become evident about Christmas at the White House with Mrs. Trump is how innovative she is in her decorating the Executive Mansion while at the same time paying homage to prior first ladies. She is clearly studied and knowledgeable in the long-standing traditions deeply rooted in the White House and this is seen through her annual decorating themes.
For her inaugural Christmas, Mrs. Trump had the brilliant idea of having actual ballerinas in the Grand Foyer for its unveiling. It was innovative to have real ballerinas, but it was also honoring the Christmas of 1961 and Jackie Kennedy who was the first to have a themed Christmas tree in the Blue Room with the theme of the Nutcracker Suite.
This year, Mrs. Trump has once again left her own mark, especially in the East Colonnade, with a modern look of a plexiglass etching of “a timeline of American design, innovation, and architecture.” Mrs. Trump complimented the display with a bold red carpet covering the iconic brick floor.
She showed no signs of being detoured by some of the critics, who last year voiced unwarranted criticisms of her White House designs and innovative Cranberry Trees on a similar green carpet. In fact, those fabulous cranberry trees last year were in part a nod to the tradition of the annual Cranberry Tree started first by First Lady Betty Ford and were a favorite of First Lady Nancy Reagan. Following the criticism Mrs. Trump said, “We are in the 21st Century and everybody has a different taste, I think they look fantastic … and everyone is invited to the White House, the People’s House.”
The First Lady chose to celebrate all of America through her holiday decorations. “When I travel the country, I am inspired by the hard-working people and families that I meet,” the First Lady said in a statement. “No matter which state they call home, many Americans share a strong set of values and deep appreciation for the traditions and history of our great nation.”
Visitors will see elements of America from sea to shining sea, not only by well over 150 professional volunteers and everyday Americans that came from across the country (many of which applied through an innovative online application to participate) to decorate but also in her choice of décor.
Since First Lady Pat Nixon first created her “American Flower Tree” in 1969, the White House has always included representation from across the country on the official Christmas tree. Mrs. Nixon, with the help of Henry F. Callahan, the executive display director of Saks Fifth Avenue, designed American flowered balls embellished with items such pearls and gemstones to represent the entire country. That idea was modernized this year by Mrs. Trump with this year’s official tree standing tall in the Blue Room trimmed with blossoming handmade paper flowers with distinctive floral emblem of every state and territory.
Mrs. Trump continued her inclusiveness with the historic 50th White House Gingerbread House to appear in the State Dining Room. This year’s cookie treat was a replica of the South Portico façade of the White House and included well known American landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, Space Needle, Mount Rushmore, the Alamo, Gateway Arch, Liberty Bell, and the Statue of Liberty to ensure everyone felt an element of home and the unity of our country.
Again, proving her fearless yet elegant style was highlighting the golden anniversary of the gingerbread house with unique red lamp shades on the both the chandeliers and the sconces framing the replica in the State Dining Room on the historic table.
The incorporation of her passion for children and her main initiative as first lady, her Be Best initiative is highlighted again in the Red Room. “Decorated with games galore, it ignites the childlike spirit we all have at this time of year” says the White House and at the bottom of the tree one can find games like Scrabble spelling out keys words of her campaign: Kind, Confidence, Caring, Read and more. “Be Best” is also spelled out in the garland on the mantel of the Red Room along with dominos.
Although not all first ladies have portrayed their initiatives in their décor, First Lady Barbara Bush did in her 1989 “A Storybook Christmas,” displaying many of her favorite children’s book characters in the Official White House the tree, and Mrs. Trump did so with style this year.
One of Mrs. Trump’s many strengths is her willingness to try different ideas for decorating the White House for the American people. Her understated elegance is always displayed but she is also willing to try different combinations of design to brighten the People’s House each year at Christmas. “Mrs. Trump has a deep appreciation for the history of the White House and its traditions,” said Lindsay Reynolds, the first lady’s chief of staff, told me in an interview for my book. “She always strikes the perfect balance between reverence for precedent set by former first ladies and respectfully leaving her own mark.”
This year’s holiday decorations were just that, in the spirit of America.
Jennifer Boswell Pickens (@JenniferPickens) is a White House East Wing historian with expertise in White House traditions, social events and first ladies. She is a public speaker and author of three books, “Christmas at the White House,” “Pets at the White House,” and her latest book, “Entertaining at the White House.”
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.