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Christmas with the First Ladies: Holiday Celebrations at the White House

Weekend Lecture/Seminar

Saturday, December 11, 2021 - 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0145
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$30 - Member
$35 - Non-Member
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Holiday decorations in the East Room, 2019 (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

No home in America celebrates the holidays quite like the White House, and behind each annual celebration is a first lady who lends her distinctive style to the festivities. Historian Coleen Christian Burke, a 2014 White House holiday design partner, shares the signature holiday decorating style of modern residents from Jackie Kennedy to Jill Biden.

Burke draws from her experience and her book Christmas with the First Ladies, to reveal how White House holiday themes are developed, how the White House functions during the holidays as both a private home and public space and offers views of some of the most memorable holiday settings created at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  

11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.  Historical Overview

Christmas celebrations at the White House, from Jackie Kennedy's search for the perfect creche to Betty Ford's "soap on a rope ornament" to Jill Biden's first Christmas theme and decor.

12:15–1 p.m. Behind the Scenes and Christmas Crafting Traditions

A behind-the-scenes glimpse at the months of planning that led to the sparkling holiday decorations created around the 2014 theme, “A Children’s Winter Wonderland.” Follow the evolution and implementation of the project—which included 57 trees, multiple 20-foot arches, and a specially designed floor treatment in the State Dining Room—and learn how even the smallest details are planned to provide the greatest impact.

Burke also discusses the role crafts have played in seasonal décor at the White House. See samples of hand-made decorations, including Lady Bird Johnson's wildflower ornaments, Pat Nixon's state flower balls, and Michelle Obama's gingerbread figures.

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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.