WASHINGTON, D.C. — Christmas has arrived at the White House.
First lady Melania Trump unveiled the 2018 White House holiday decor on Monday. She designed the decor, which features a theme of “American Treasures.”
The White House says decorations include a tree trimmed by Gold Star families, features gold stars and patriotic ribbon while visitors are encouraged to write messages to their loved ones who are on duty or abroad on the digital tablets provided.
An array of topiary trees and mantelpieces feature the skylines of New York City, St. Louis, Chicago and San Francisco.
In the grand foyer, the theme is patriotism, with 14,000 red ornaments hanging from 29 trees.
Also on display are the customary gingerbread house and the traditional White House tree, which stands 18 feet tall. It was grown in Avery County, N.C,. by Mountain Top Frasier Firs, owned by Larry Smith of Newland.
Trump tweeted a video showing her walking among this year’s holiday decorations, which also include an ornament emblazoned with the slogan for her child well-being campaign, “Be Best.”
Each year, 100 volunteers are chosen by the White House and the first lady to help decorate for Christmas. This year, Kathy Shows from Louisiana was one of them. She said that she has always had a love for Christmas decorating, even calling herself “a bit of a Christmas decorating fanatic,” but that she never expected to have the chance to decorate a site with as much history and grandeur as the White House.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the tradition of decorating the White House, and I’ve read about it thoroughly over the years, but I truly never expected to be able to do it myself one day,” Shows said.
She was among the volunteers transforming the rooms and halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. into a winter wonderland, and Shows said that she first learned of the opportunity to participate nearly 15 years ago. Despite her burning desire, she said, there always seemed to be reasons not to apply.
“I had children at home when I first found out about it, so I just couldn’t justify not being home at Thanksgiving,” she said. “Each year I would open up the application and then I would just tell myself that I would do it next year instead.”
Now an empty nester, Shows said she had begun to run out of reasons to say no to herself. In March, she completed the essay and application and submitted it. In October, after nearly forgetting she had even applied, she said she got an email alerting her that she had been selected for this year’s project.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I thought that the email had to be a fake at first and was scared to open it, but I realized it was true and I just started crying as I read it.”
With the full support of her husband and family, Shows purchased her plane tickets and began preparing herself as best she could.
“It’ll be an interesting experience, but an exciting one that I can’t wait to be a part of,” she said.
One of her most anticipated projects to see is the Blue Room Christmas Tree.
“The Blue Room tree will symbolize for me what this whole experience is all about; the rich history and the tradition behind decorating the White House and getting to play a part in that tradition. That will make this all real for me.”
Planning for the Christmas decorations began in the first lady’s office back in August. The White House staff asked that people interested in volunteering to decorate the White House, and bands, artists and other performers wishing to participate in the holiday festivities submit their application by mid-September. Application information for next year is expected to come out during the first week of August 2019 on whitehouse.gov