White House Christmas: Spirit of America Shines Against The Backdrop Of Impeachment

White House Christmas 2019 through the eyes of Melania Trump is singularly American, Ksenija Pavlovic Mcateer observes.

First lady Melania Trump unveils 2019 White House Christmas decorations (Twitter / FLOTUS)

On December 2nd, at 5 AM, I walked through the White House gate for a media preview of the Christmas decorations at the White House. This year, close to one hundred and fifty reporters applied for press credentials, but only seventy were approved to cover, exclusively, the White House Christmas reveal. 

This year, the theme is “American Spirit,” and a walkway through the historic East Wing has been decorated by the First Lady Melania Trump and her team of volunteers.

It is clear immediately the staff in the First Lady's office treat the press much better than the press office of her husband, the president. This care starts with a basic courtesy to offer shelter in the hallway instead of standing in the pitch-dark cold weather outside the Palm room doors. 

As a White House Correspondent covering the Trump administration, I rarely interact with the Office of the First Lady, mostly because Melania does not spend much time in the spotlight, but the kind spirit she puts on is noticeable. These may seem like small details, but they make a large difference.  Perhaps Donald Trump would not have a war with the media if he took a tip or two from his wife. 

Remembrance of the fallen soldiers

The Gold Star Family tree is the first tree to welcome guests to the East Wing

At the entrance to the hallway stands a Gold Star family tree, decorated in honor and remembrance of fallen American soldiers. Wrapped in red and gold ribbon, it symbolizes American patriotism and acts as a reminder of those who serve and of those who lost their lives on the battlefield. 

The Gold Star Family tree is seen in the East Wing of the White House Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, during a review of the Christmas decorations by First Lady Melania Trump. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

A timeline of American design

As I entered the East Colonnade, I walked through the canopy of white stars. 

Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks

Last year, many criticized the eccentric decorations, but I actually loved the Christmas tree spread screaming red throughout the hallway. It was artistic, risky. It was unexpected and bold.

This year, the first lady took a more conservative approach to Christmas with no aesthetic surprises, which was a safe bet catering more to the general taste. If the last year was about shock effect, this year was all about telling the nation’s story, an attempt by the First Lady to bring some calm to the political storm that pummels us through the twenty-four-seven news cycle.

Christmas Minimalism 

The Vermeil Room of the White House / Official White House photo The Vermeil Room and the library have been kept elegant and minimal decorations this year. This taste, I believe, is the outcome of Melania’s European cultural heritage. Less is more seems to be the First Lady’s aesthetic. Come to think of it, Christmas is about the richness of the spirit. Going overboard with decorations would mean placing too much emphasis on the external and what’s obvious.

The Library at the White House contains more than 2,700 books2019 White House Christmas decor is leveled and elegant and at times, reminding me, especially in the East Room, of the old world immortalized in iconic movies like Gone with the Wind.

East room

Out of many, one

The Grand Foyer and Cross Hall attempt to tell the story of the melting pot, showcasing the White House as a place where “individuals from all backgrounds come together, united by our stories history.” Such an approach is the antithesis of the isolationist immigration policy of Melania’s husband. By closely studying each room she has decorated, the values the First lady seeks to uphold in her own name are revealed.

If anyone is interested in reading through the post signs, the storyline Melania puts forward is one of gratitude, positive values and her "Be Best" initiative that sadly has been lost in the noise of the president’s harsh politics and communication style. This year, Melania is speaking up, being more vocal about who she is, letting the public and the press to get to know her. 

The Red Room of the White House is decorated for the Christmas season Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, during a review of the decorations by First Lady Melania Trump. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

The biggest takeaway for someone who has spent most of her time in the White House sphere covering the toxic daily politics for the past three years, the Christmas reveal offered a silver lining. For the first time since I've started covering Trump's White House, there was no tension, aggressiveness or toxicity. No one was rushing the viewing. There was enough time to take it all in. That in itself was an important component of this writer’s experience: an invitation to feel the Christmas spirit and view the walkway without negative distractions.  

White House Christmas 2019 through the eyes of Melania Trump is singularly American. And a reflection of the First Lady that America and the world hasn't gotten to know over the past three years. Considering the Christmas reveal is happening against the backdrop of the impeachment proceedings, Melania did a good job keeping it dignified. 

First Lady Melania Trump reviews the Christmas decorations Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, in the Cross Hall of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
 

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