The First Family achieved something truly magical with this year’s theme: “Gifts from the Heart.”
Gifts of the Heart: Christmas 2021
Though 2021 has been far from the return to normal we’d all hoped, it hasn’t been a complete morass of plague and incivility.
We’re all tired of COVID-19, of variants and restrictions, mandates and closures; non more so than those stout-hearted souls elected by We the People to deal with all this mess.
The holiday season, coming once a year as it does on the heels of the New Year, is as good a time as any to reflect on the many blessings we still have.
In decorating the White House for Christmas this year, the First Family hoped to call to mind precious, intangible gifts neither pandemic, nor economic hardship, nor anxiety for the future can take away.
The gifts of faith and community, family, the performing arts, the visual arts, peace and unity, nature, friendship, learning and most of all, gratitude, are all reflected in this year’s decorations.
Grand Foyer and Cross Hall: The Gift of Faith and Community
“With the strength of faith and love of community, we are comforted and reassured that we are never alone,” the White House reminds us in the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall.
“Wintry scenes of life within our towns and cities, reflecting the solace of faith, the lasting bonds of community, and the perseverance of the American spirit,” are nestled in the hallway alcoves and displayed on towering Christmas trees.
“Just like the shooting stars in the night sky, we are encouraged by the brightness of tomorrow and the hope it can bring,” the room inspires in a hopeful note.
State Dining Room: The Gift of Family
The Gift of Family, as the White House reminds us, includes, “those we are born into, those we choose, and those we create.”
“The pandemic kept many of us apart, yet it also reminded us that our time together is so precious,” the Bidens are correct to remind us.
Christmas trees in this room feature photographs of past and present First Families, as “each family who made this house a home reminds us all of the enduring love and lasting bonds of family.”
Red Room: Gift of the Performing Arts
What a polite way of pointing out how much the performing arts have come to mean to us during this time of upheaval and uncertainty.
Or, as the White House gently puts it: “The performing arts have taken on new meaning in recent years. The advent of social media has empowered incredible artists and performers to share their talent with the world from their own living rooms. When theatres and concert halls shut down during the pandemic, new apps and digital platforms allowed us all to join together virtually, keeping us connected with performers in joy, laughter, and awe when we needed it most.”
It’s too true: When nothing outside seems as it should be, on Netflix and Amazon Prime, everything- from live music performances to blockbuster movies- is still right as rain. And yes, Netflix; we are still watching.
Blue Room: Gift of Peace and Unity
The Official White House Christmas Tree- the cornerstone of the holiday season since the Eisenhower Administration- adorns the Blue Room in pride of place.
Bedecked in peace doves carrying the names of each U.S. state, it is intended in evoke, “the importance of unity and national harmony.”
Green Room: Gift of Nature
“We can always find respite, tranquility, and restoration in the bounty of nature,” and in the Green Room of the White House, according to this year’s theme. “The beauty of the sunrise and the constancy of the tides remind us that the world always moves forward and takes us with it. Hope renews with each new day.”
The Green Room once served as President Thomas Jefferson’s dining room and nature is a theme he would surely have approved.
East Room: Gift of Gratitude
“We are restoring the soul of this Nation with love and understanding, with care and compassion, and most of all, with gratitude,” promised the Biden Family at Christmas.
Trees in this room feature hand-written thank you notes, cards and other expressions of gratitude that can, “heal our hearts and bring us together.”
China Room: Gift of Friendship and Sharing
“This holiday, as you gather hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart around the dinner table, we hope the China Room inspires you to share healing laughs, comforting meals, and warm memories with loved ones, extending the Gift of Friendship and Sharing,” says the White House of the China Room.
The room, filled as it is with fine china used by past first families to host diplomats and heads of state in offerings fellowship, is perfect to represent this theme.
Breaking bread together is a human friendship tradition dating back thousands of years, probably longer. Sharing food has been considered by many cultures the ultimate act of friendship and sharing.
Vermeil Room: Gift of the Visual Arts
“To celebrate the Gift of the Visual Arts, the Vermeil (French for “gilded silver”) Room glows with bright, bold, colorful paint brushes and paint swatches, representing the diverse American artists whose talents bring delight to all,” is how The White House intended this room.
“From historic portraits to graphic art displays, from light installations to marble sculptures, from wood carvings to children’s handprint art, the visual arts bring us joy, calm our minds, and inspire our imaginations,” is another way of politely reminding us all what these last two years would have been like without the arts.
Library: Gift of Learning
In the White House Library, we are reminded of what the last two years might have been like without learning. For every person who picked up a guitar, downloaded DUO Lingo, or learned to code while on pandemic; this room is just for you.
“This year, stacks of books as well as butterflies and birds made of recycled newspapers decorate the Library, reminding us that, with the Gift of Learning, we can soar to places we never imagined and rise to meet any challenge,” is the message of hope and a future.
Sadly, there were no confirmed Christmas sightings of the First Family’s new puppy to recall the First Pets of yesteryear.
Who can forget Socks Clinton’s many Christmastime appearances?
Or the Obama family’s unforgettable Bo:
While there was no tribute to pandemic pets, the Biden White House didn’t forget frontline healthcare workers nursing the nation through a pandemic.
The (Grateful) Gingerbread White House
A sweet tribute to frontline healthcare workers.
The 2021 official Gingerbread White House sits proudly atop the eagle pier table in the State Dining Room.
“This year’s gingerbread display is inspired by our gratitude and admiration for our Nation’s frontline workers who kept our country running through the global pandemic, often at great risk to themselves and their families,” according to the White House.
Nothing says “Thank you for your service,” like 55 sheets of gingerbread, 120 pounds of pastillage, 35 pounds of chocolate, 25 pounds of royal icing and a partridge in a pear tree.
The White House didn’t forget the one gift that, above all, allows us to enjoy so many others.
The Gold Star Tree
“The Gold Star Tree on the East Landing honors the heroic men and women of our Nation’s military, who have laid down their lives for our country, and the families who carry on their legacies,” said the Biden Family of the tribute.
That this year’s magnificent decorations, and timely message, should be topped by such a Gold Star is perfectly befitting the season.
Each room, each tree, decoration, ornament and thoughtful, personal touch by the Biden Family is a reminder, and an opportunity to do just as the White House asks us to do this year.
“As you celebrate this holiday season, join us in taking a few moments to pause and reflect on these intangible Gifts from the Heart and the many blessings bestowed upon us all.”
Perhaps the best ending to this Christmas tale is the “White House Blessing,” inspired by a letter written by U.S. President John Adams to his wife in 1800.
“I Pray Heaven To Bestow The Best of Blessings Upon This House.”
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)