Amid the turmoil of President Trump's refusal to concede that he lost the election, Christmas has arrived at the White House. In an official statement, first lady Melania Trump announced this year's theme is "America the Beautiful" and unveiled the decorations that adorn the halls and rooms of the White House this season.
The White House has paired the unsupported claims by Trump about alleged fraud with a program of annual observances that follow past practices by him and other presidents, including the traditional turkey pardon.
In the Blue Room, the official White House Christmas tree comes in at a whopping 18 feet and surrounds the room in yellow and gold lighting. Ornaments from students across the country, asked to depict what makes their state beautiful, dangle from the enormous fir.
In the State Dining Hall, this year's Gingerbread House looks an awful lot like the White House. The White House's pastry team re-created the West Wing, Executive Residence, East Wing, and, for the first time, the Rose Garden and First Ladies' Garden, with 275 pounds of gingerbread dough, 10 pounds of pastillage dough, 30 pounds of gum paste, 25 pounds of chocolate, and 25 pounds of royal icing.
There's also a concerted effort to recognize those putting their lives on the line in the name of protecting everyday Americans. At the entry of the East Wing, the traditional Gold Star Family Tree honors the lives of those lost in service with a ribbon of names, inscribed by the Gold Star families that decorated the tree. In the Red Room, trees hold ornaments highlighting the professions of frontline workers and first responders.
Many of the first lady's decorations pay homage to the history of the United States. The White House Library spotlights the 100th ratification of the 19th Amendment with art from the first lady's 19th Amendment child art competition, displayed near the tabletop tree. The East Room features cars, trains, and planes racing up Christmas trees as a tribute to the role of technology and innovation in America.
In a year of broken precedents, first lady Melania Trump chose to go with a more familiar Christmas décor. In past years, the first lady's choices have been nothing short of unconventional: During her first Christmas in 2017, Melania Trump opted to line the hallways with Balsam fir trees that dripped with icicles, sparking memes about the first lady's potential penchant for existential dread.
In 2018, she filled the East Colonnade with 40 blood-red trees and hung 14,000 red ornaments elsewhere in the White House. While the first lady's office said the choice of red was "a symbol of valor and bravery," it didn't stop the memes from populating once again.
Christmas has featured prominently in Trump's rhetoric against political correctness, even before he was elected to office.
At an Iowa rally in 2015, Trump said, "If I become president, we're gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store ... You can leave happy holidays at the corner." At the 2017 tree-lighting ceremony, the president pledged to restore "Merry Christmas" to the White House. On the 2020 campaign trail, Trump even went so far as to suggest that now President-elect Joe Biden would cancel Christmas if elected.
Despite Trump's continued suggestion that Christmas is under attack, his wife revealed less than warm feelings toward observing the holiday in the White House in 2018.
In tapes played by CNN earlier this year, Melania Trump was recorded expressing her frustration at criticism of the family separation policy. "I'm working ... my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that, you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?" she said.
She continued, according to the recordings made by a former friend: "And then I do it and I say that I'm working on Christmas and planning for Christmas and they said, 'Oh, what about the children that they were separated from?' Give me a f****** break."
At the time, Stephanie Grisham, a spokeswoman for the first lady, said: "Secretly taping the First Lady and willfully breaking an NDA to publish a salacious book is a clear attempt at relevance. The timing of this continues to be suspect - as does this never-ending exercise in self-pity and narcissism."