First Lady Michelle Obama previewed the 2013 White House holiday décor to a crowd of military families who were the first of more than 70,000 anticipated visitors this holiday season. Mrs. Obama announced this year's theme, Gather Around: Stories of the Season, a celebration of the stories and traditions that bring us together this special time of year. Mrs. Obama talked about how the theme inspires her to think about “the thousands of men and women in uniform serving abroad who wake up in the middle of the night in some remote part of the world to read a special holiday story to their children over Skype, or to be there on the screen to experience that special moment of joy when their kids open those presents from Santa.”
The military families that attended the preview were the first to see the Holiday decorations this season. Parents drank cider, cookies and looked at the ornaments while children that attended the event had the opportunity to make crafts including – a fruit wreath and a Bo-quet paper poinsettia.
Continuing the tradition started by Mrs. Obama, this year the very first tree tour guests will see is decorated to pay tribute to our Armed Forces:
“When visitors arrive, the very first thing they’ll see is a tree decorated to pay tribute to our Armed Forces," she said. "This tree, graced with special Gold Star ornaments, tells the story of some of our greatest heroes: Those who gave their lives for our country. And any Gold Star family who visits the White House can create their own ornament to honor their loved one. In addition, everyone who visits this White House this year gets a chance to fill out an Operation Honor Card pledging to serve their community in honor of our military families, your servicemembers, your veterans, whoever you choose, just find a way to serve.”
The Blue Room also honors our military families. It holds the Official White House Christmas Tree, presented from the National Christmas Tree Association standing at 18 1⁄2 feet high and nearly 11 feet wide. According to the First Lady, the Blue Room tree is “dedicated to the idea of gathering around our military. The tree in that room is decorated with holiday greeting cards drawn by military children from bases all across the country as a way to celebrate their parents’ service.”
First Lady Michelle Obama asks us all to “find a way to honor these great Americans, not just during the holidays, but every day. And let us never forget the debt that we owe these men and women and their amazing families.”
(You can share your message of thanks through the USO here.)
An of course, none of this would be possible if not for the volunteers who take time out of their busy lives and come from all parts of the country to help decorate the White House. This year more than 83 volunteers (16 of whom served in the military or are a part of a military family) representing 33 states and the District of Columbia worked tirelessly to transform the People’s House.
For additional information, including the 2013 Holiday Tour Book and instructions on the crafts that military children created today, go to WH.gov/Holidays. Holiday-related content from the White House will be tagged #WHHoliday.