White House holiday decorations show the festive season through the ‘sparkling eyes of children'

“Each room on display is designed to capture the pure, unfiltered delight and imagination of our childhoods," first lady Jill Biden said.

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Ninety-eight Christmas trees, more than 142,000 twinkling lights and nearly 34,000 ornaments deck the halls of the White House in ways that first lady Jill Biden hopes will inspire visitors to embrace their inner child and experience the “magic, wonder and joy” of the season. It's her theme for the holiday décor.

“Each room on display is designed to capture the pure, unfiltered delight and imagination of our childhoods, to see this time of year through the wondrous, sparkling eyes of children,” she says in remarks prepared for a Monday afternoon reception to formally unveil the décor and thank hundreds of designers and decorators who volunteered to spend last week transforming the executive mansion.

Throughout the décor are numerous nods to the 200th anniversary of the publication in 1823 of the poem and book “'Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

The Library of Congress provided samples of editions from the past 200 years that are on display along the ground floor corridor. The traditional gingerbread White House recreates the classic story by featuring a sugar cookie replica of the book along with Santa's sleigh flying above the grounds. Santa's sleigh and his reindeer are also suspended above the Grand Foyer.

The White House released a fact sheet and was allowing the news media to see all the trees, lights and ornaments before the first lady’s event. National Guard families, who were joining Biden as part of Joining Forces, her White House initiative to show appreciation for military families, will be among the first members of the public to see the decorations.

Children of these and other military families were also to be treated to a performance by the cast of the North American tour of the Disney musical “Frozen.”

One of the first Christmas trees visitors will see is decorated with wooden gold star ornaments engraved with the names of fallen service members.

The official White House Christmas tree, an 18.5-foot-tall (5.6-meter-tall) Fraser fir, takes its usual place in the Blue Room, where the chandelier has to be taken down in order to accommodate its height. The massive tree this year celebrates cheerful scenes, landscapes and neighborhoods from across the country.

The State Dining Room has been transformed into Santa's workshop, with elves' workbenches, stools and ladders circling the Christmas trees and tools and gifts-in-progress rounding out the décor.

The dining room is also the customary stage for the gingerbread White House, made using 40 sheets each of sugar cookie dough and gingerbread dough, 90 pounds (41 kilograms) of pastillage, a cake decorating paste, 30 pounds (14 kilograms) of chocolate and 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of royal icing.

The library honors the tradition of bedtime stories with golden moons and shimmering stars dangling overhead while the China Room becomes a sweet shop featuring flavors and scents of the season wafting from the holiday cakes, cookies and gingerbread filling the space.

The official White House Menorah is on display in the Cross Hall, which runs between the State Dining Room and the East Room.

In her prepared remarks, the first lady says she knows that magic, wonder and joy can be hard to find, especially as the days grow shorter, the weather turns colder “and our hearts grow heavy in the face of a tumultuous world.”

"But it’s in these times, when we are searching for hope and healing, that we need those points of light the most, that we need each other the most," she says. “It’s in these times that I hope you remember, if even just for a moment or a season, how you saw the world as a child.”

Nearly 15,000 feet (4,600 meters) of ribbon, more than 350 candles and over 22,000 bells were used for the decorations, the White House said. More than 142,425 lights twinkle on trees, garlands, wreaths and other displays.

Seventy-two wreaths sporting red ribbons adorn the north and south exteriors of the White House.

Can I take a White House holiday tour?

Anyone is welcome to walk around the outside of the White House; wreaths, lights and other holiday decor are usually visible from The Ellipse and Lafayette Square.

The National Christmas Tree, located in President’s Park, is scheduled to open to the public on Saturday, Dec. 2. The festive Pathway of Peace and national tree will be free to visit and open to the public through Jan. 1, 2024.

With a little luck, you may be able to go inside the White House and see it decked out for the holidays.

You’ll need to schedule a regular White House tour during the holiday season.

White House tours must be booked 90 to 21 days in advance.

To book a White House tour, you can contact your Member of Congress and Congressional Tour Coordinator.

  • Call the U.S. House of Representatives Switchboard at 202-225-3121
  • Call the U.S. Senate Switchboard at 202-224-3121
  • Visit www.congress.gov/members to contact your representative directly

Tours are typically offered from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, excluding federal holidays. Here’s more information.

White House Christmas Trees Through the Years

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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