The President and First Lady: “Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, from our family to yours”
November 29, 2021 — Today, First Lady Jill Biden will unveil the theme for the 2021 White House Holiday Season: Gifts from the Heart.
“The things we hold sacred unite us and transcend distance, time, and even the constraints of a pandemic: faith, family, and friendship; a love of the arts, learning, and nature; gratitude, service, and community; unity and peace. These are the gifts that tie together the heart strings of our lives. These are the Gifts from the Heart,” the First Lady and President wrote in a welcome letter at the beginning of the commemorative 2021 White House Holiday Guide.
“As we celebrate our first holiday season in the White House, we are inspired by the Americans we have met across the country, time and again reminding us that our differences are precious and our similarities infinite,” the First Lady and President continued. “We wish you a happy, healthy, and joyous holiday season. As we look to a new year full of possibility, may gifts from the heart light our path forward.”
During an event at the White House this afternoon, the First Lady will offer a holiday message of unity, healing, and gratitude, and will thank the over 100 volunteers from the local area who helped decorate the White House for the season. In honor of the National Guard’s role responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and all those National Guard families spending holidays apart, the First Lady will be joined again by a National Guard family: Captain Maryanne V. Harrell; husband Levi; and their three children, Levi II, Marcus, and Elliana. Captain Maryanne V. Harrell currently serves as the unit commander for the District of Columbia Army National Guard (DCARNG) Medical Detachment. The Harrell family also joined the First Lady for the Official White House Christmas Tree arrival, and the First Lady invited Elliana’s 2nd grade class from Malcolm Elementary School in Waldorf, Maryland to come to the White House to help her unveil the 2021 decorations.
Videos, photos, and information about the décor will be available on WhiteHouse.gov/Holidays. Additionally, over the course of holidays, a variety of interactive viewing experiences will launch on digital platforms, including Instagram, Google Maps Street View, Snapchat, and others, that will allow individuals to engage with the White House during the holidays from home. Also, characters from PBS KIDS will join the First Lady to help bring the “People’s House” during the holidays to children all across the nation through free educational resources.
2021 White House Holiday by the numbers:
- There are 41 Christmas trees throughout the White House.
- Approximately 6,000 feet of ribbon, over 300 candles, and over 10,000 ornaments were used this year to decorate the White House.
- Over 78,750 holiday lights decorate the Christmas trees, garlands, wreaths, and displays in the White House.
- Twenty-five classic wreaths adorn the north and south facades of the White House.
- It takes over 100 dedicated volunteers working a full week to decorate the inside and outside of the White House.
Gifts from the Heart, 2021 Holidays Theme
Inspired by the small acts of kindness and experiences that lifted our spirits this year and throughout the pandemic, rooms in the White House are decorated to reflect the Gifts from the Heart that unite us all:
- The Arts
Included below is a description of each room’s inspiration, expressing the First Lady’s theme, Gifts from the Heart:
East Wing – Gift of Service
The 2021 White House holiday décor begins by honoring the Gift of Service. This year has been defined by uncommon acts of compassion, bravery, and selflessness by so many, and the First Family celebrates their service and sacrifice.
Throughout the East Colonnade, iridescent doves and shooting stars illuminate the hallway, representing the peace and light brought to us all by the service of frontline workers and first responders during the pandemic. Poinsettias punctuate the glowing topiaries opposite the windows to the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, dedicated by First Lady Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson in 1965. The East Wing of the White House was expanded to its current form in 1942 and includes the Office of the First Lady.
East Landing – Gold Star Tree
The Gold Star Tree honors the heroic women and men of our Nation’s military, who have laid down their lives for our country, and the families who carry on their legacies.
Library – Gift of Learning
Throughout the past year especially, we have all appreciated the Gift of Learning. Educators learned how to connect with students in new and innovative ways, pushing through the challenges of the pandemic. America’s students and families needed champions like never before, and they found their heroes in educators.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated this room to serve as the White House Library in 1935. This space now holds approximately 2,700 volumes of books, focusing primarily on American history and literature.
This year, stacks of books as well as butterflies and birds made of recycled paper decorate the Library, reminding us that, with the Gift of Learning, we can soar to places we never imagined and rise to meet any challenge.
Vermeil Room – Gift of the Visual Arts
To celebrate the Gift of the Visual Arts, the Vermeil (French for “gilded silver”) Room glows with bright, bold, colorful paint brushes and paint swatches, representing the diverse American artists whose talents bring delight to all. From historic portraits to graphic art displays, from light installations to marble sculptures, from wood carvings to children’s handprint art, the visual arts bring us joy, calm our minds, and inspire our imaginations.
On the walls of this room, are the portraits of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover. Sixty years ago, Mrs. Kennedy founded the White House Historical Association to protect, preserve, and provide public access to the rich history of America’s Executive Mansion. Through educational efforts and programming, the People’s House is shared far beyond the White House gates.
China Room – Gift of Friendship and Sharing
This holiday, as we gather hand-in-hand and heart-to-heart around the dinner table, we hope the China Room inspires us all to share healing laughs, comforting meals, and warm memories with loved ones, extending the Gift of Friendship and Sharing. Wrapping the branches of the room’s Christmas tree are garlands of intertwined hands symbolizing friendship, fellowship, and merriment.
The China Room, which was formalized by First Lady Edith Wilson in 1917, houses tableware used by past presidential families. Each set reflects the presidents and first ladies who selected their designs and recalls the State Dinners and celebratory meals that have brought together world leaders and diplomats.
Grand Foyer and Cross Hall – Gift of Faith and Community
The Grand Foyer and Cross Hall of the White House celebrate the Gift of Faith and Community. With the strength of faith and love of community, we are comforted and reassured that we are never alone.
Floating candles symbolize the light we carry out into the world. The hallway alcoves and tree displays depict wintry scenes of life within our towns and cities, reflecting the solace of faith, the lasting bonds of community, and the perseverance of the American spirit. Just like the shooting stars in the night sky, we are encouraged by the brightness of tomorrow and the hope it can bring.
East Room – Gift of Gratitude
Together, we are restoring the soul of this Nation with love and understanding, with care and compassion, and most of all, with gratitude. The East Room celebrates the Gift of Gratitude, symbolized by small acts of kindness and handwritten notes, full of grateful reflection. Whether it is penning a thank you card, sending a sweet text with a heart emoji, or dropping off muffins on a neighbor’s front porch, these expressions of gratitude heal our hearts and bring us together.
Designed to be the largest room in the White House, the East Room has hosted public receptions, ceremonies, bill signings, and other memorable occasions. This room also features the most iconic White House artifact: Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington, which First Lady Dolley Madison helped save in 1814 when the White House was about to be set aflame during the War of 1812.
It was George Washington who, when bidding farewell to the officers of the victorious Continental Army, described himself as having “a heart full of love and gratitude” for those who served with him in the cause of freedom.
Since 1967, the Neapolitan crèche, with over 40 figurines from the eighteenth century, has been displayed here every holiday season.
Green Room – Gift of Nature
The Green Room honors the Gift of Nature. One can always find respite, tranquility, and restoration in the bounty of nature. The beauty of the sunrise and the constancy of the tides remind us that the world always moves forward and takes us with it. Hope renews with each new day.
Arranged in the windows of the room are purple trees accented with natural orchids. Lush foliage and sprays of greenery are draped along the fireplace mantel. Once Thomas Jefferson’s dining room, the Green Room houses Henry Ossawa Tanner’s Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City, using actual sand to illustrate the windswept beaches of our coasts.
Blue Room – Gift of Peace and Unity
The Blue Room, featuring the Official White House Christmas Tree, celebrates the Gift of Peace and Unity. Cascading down the tree, peace doves carry a shimmering banner embossed with the names of each state and territory of the United States, reminding us all of the importance of unity and national harmony.
Beginning in the Eisenhower Administration, a large Christmas tree has been consistently featured in the Blue Room. The centerpiece of the holiday season, an 18 ½ foot Fraser Fir from Jefferson, North Carolina, stands floor to ceiling and fills the oval room. Every year, the room’s chandelier is removed to accommodate the Christmas tree’s full height. This year’s tree was presented by Rusty and Beau Estes of Peak Farms, who were named the 2021 Grand Champion Grower in the annual National Christmas Tree Association’s National Christmas Tree contest—their third time winning this award.
Red Room – Gift of the Performing Arts
The Red Room captures the joy and wonder of the holiday season by celebrating the Gift of the Performing Arts. Brass instruments hang from the mantel against the rich, red, silk wall coverings. Ballet slippers, tap shoes, and musical notes dance around the tree like sugarplum fairies.
The performing arts have taken on new meaning in recent years. The advent of social media has empowered incredible artists and performers to share their talent with the world from their own living rooms. When theatres and concert halls shut down during the pandemic, new apps and digital platforms allowed us all to join together virtually, keeping us connected with performers in joy, laughter, and awe when we needed it most.
In the Red Room, two cranberry topiaries are on display, a tradition which began in 1975.
State Dining Room – Gift of Family
The State Dining Room celebrates the cherished Gift of Family—those we are born into, those we choose, and those we create. The pandemic kept many of us apart, yet it also reminded us that our time together is so precious.
Just below the family stockings, an engraving in the fireplace mantel reads, “I Pray Heaven To Bestow The Best of Blessings Upon This House…” The words from this blessing were taken from a letter written by President John Adams to his wife, Abigail, dated November 2, 1800. These words are now known as the White House blessing. This year, the Christmas trees in the State Dining Room glisten with ornaments featuring photographs of First Families, past and present. Each family who made this house a home reminds us all of the enduring love and lasting bonds of family.
The Gingerbread White House
Situated on the eagle pier table in the State Dining Room is the official 2021 Gingerbread White House. This year’s gingerbread display is inspired by our gratitude and admiration for our Nation’s frontline workers who kept our country running through the global pandemic, often at great risk to themselves and their families.
The display includes eight detailed replicas of community buildings representing frontline workers. To complete the finishing touches, the White House pastry team used 55 sheets of baked gingerbread, 120 pounds of pastillage, 35 pounds of chocolate, and 25 pounds of royal icing.