Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas at the White House

I am lucky enough to have visited the White House three times so far. The first time was with my grandfather, just weeks before I entered Basic Training. The second was about 5-6 years ago while I was an Intern at the Pentagon. The third time was last week!

I was able to get an invitation to the White House Press Event on 30 Nov 11 from the National Military Family Association. I was a little nervous because I wasn't really sure where to go or what to do. My wonderful husband took me to brunch at the Old Ebbett Grill and then walked me to the White House. He even waited with me for a bit until I got up the nerve to attach myself to a few other people who were waiting to go in.

Once inside, we were allowed to walk around on our own and really take our time looking at the decorations and other exhibits. I think because it was the press event, we were even allowed to take pictures.

Washington's Plate
We got to see several rooms that aren't usually open to the public (as far as I know). The Vermeil Room had six or seven official portraits of former First Ladies, including a very haunting portrait of Jackie Kennedy. Secretary Clinton's portrait was out in the hall. I don't think I saw Laura Bush's portrait - wonder where it is or if I just missed it...The China Room had a beautiful table set with china from the Bush presidency. It also had pieces from each previous china set on display including some pieces from George Washington's presidency.
Theme for this year

I could have spent a lot more time in the library looking at the books. They had some old White House Christmas cards on display including a really cool one with the 8th Air Force insignia on it. They were replicas, but still neat to see. Speaking of old White House cards, in one of the hallways, they had all of the previous cards on display. It's interesting that for Eisenhower all of his cards were very simple - just the Presidential Seal.
Official White House Tree

The official Christmas tree (one of 37 trees!) in the Blue Room was huge. I couldn't get a picture of the whole thing. It was decorated with pictures from military children around the world as well as ornaments made out of the material used for military medals. Interesting idea, at the same time I felt as if it were somehow trivializing what those medals stand for to use them as decorative material. One neat detail was that the tree skirt had buttons from military dress uniforms.
400 pound White House Gingerbread

There were so many cool things, such as the traditional White House gingerbread house (400 lbs!), the many different "Bo" decorations including a large one made with felt, one out of buttons and another one made from marshmallows and licorice, and one somewhat dark and scary nativity scene.

First Lady Michelle Obama
The highlight was seeing/hearing First Lady Michelle Obama speak in person. What an amazing surprise. Although the bigger surprise may have been that I liked her speech. The only thing I didn't like was that she said something along the lines of not wanting anyone to ever have to ask again what a Gold Star family is but then never actually told people what it was. (In case you are wondering, Gold Star families have lost a family member in the service. Blue Star families have a family member in the service.) Mrs. Obama mentioned that we were the first group to go through the White House of the over 85,000 visitors expected this season - neat to be part of that. Overall, it was pretty cool to see how a "press conference" happens. 

The large felt Bo
I met another Association volunteer and had a nice time walking around with her and talking with her. It's so much nicer to share an event with someone instead of walking around by yourself. We also met a Gold Star wife and walked around with her a bit. She was nice enough to share some of her pictures since she had brought an actual camera and not just her phone.

There are quite a few articles and probably much better pictures on the Internet if you want to read/see more.


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  2. How cool! Although I'm not an Obama fan, as if you didn't know, I guess it would have been nice to hear what Michelle had to say.