First Lady Michelle Obama welcomes her last Christmas season at the White House
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
It is Christmastime at the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama received the day after Thanksgiving Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, the last Christmas tree she will decorate at the White House of her husband President Barack Obama’s administration. Unlike the last seven years, Mrs. Obama was not joined by her daughters Malia and Sasha, who also skipped this year’s pardoning of the National Thanksgiving Turkey on Wednesday, Nov. 23. Instead, the Obamas are being joined this holiday season by their youngest nephews Austin and Aaron Robinson. Along with her nephews the Obamas dogs, Bo and Sunny tagged along.
This year’s winning White House Christmas tree is “a 19-foot Balsam-Veitch fir cross. The tree’s growers are Dave and Mary Vander Velden of the Whispering Pines Tree Farm in Oconto, Wisconsin the winners of this year’s National Christmas Tree Association contest. The Association has picked the tree since 1966.
CNN reported that the Vander Veldens’s tree did not grow as large as the official tree needs to be and will be placed somewhere else within the White House decorations, and instead a tree donated from a Pennsylvania farm will be used as the official tree adorning the Blue Room of the White House. The Vander Veldens presented the tree to the First Lady at the White House’s north portico after it arrived in the traditional horse-drawn carriage. The carriage had jingle bells, while “a four-piece military band played “O Christmas Tree.”
When Mrs. Obama received the tree, she asked her nephews, “What do you think?” and then joked about her holiday substitutes, “These are our replacement kids. This is what happens when you get teenagers. One is asleep — these two are up.” The First Lady enthusiastically concluded, “Christmas begins. The holiday starts! We’re ready — our last one. We’re excited about it.”
As the First Lady looked over the tree, she said, “This is the easiest part of the holiday season.” For the entire weekend the White House staff was decorating the executive mansion for the holidays, on Tuesday, Nov. 29 Michelle presents the finished product to the press and public. Then Thursday, Dec. 1, the Obamas will light the National Christmas Tree in the Ellipse.
Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. Ms Goodman is an expert in presidential campaigns and election history and she has been covering American elections as a journalist since 2004.