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Holiday Magic at the White House: The Brightest Season at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Weekend Program

Noon Lecture/Seminar

Sunday, December 15, 2019 - 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0019
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Coleen Christian Burke, a professional decorator who was a 2014 White House design partner, draws from her experience and her book Christmas with the First Ladies to go behind the scenes at America’s most famous residence during the holidays.

2–3:30 p.m.  Celebrations Through the Years

Follow how the White House Christmas celebration began with President Benjamin Harrison’s first White House tree and evolved to its present elaborate incarnation that includes upward of 55 trees. Survey the holiday decorating approaches and traditions of modern residents from Jackie Kennedy to Melania Trump. Memorable public and private White House holiday celebrations are recalled, including Lynda Johnson's Christmas wedding and the Carters’ ice-skating rink on the lawn.

3:30–4 p.m.  Holiday Cheer and Confections

Get an overview of White House holiday parties, including entertainment, food, and drink. See how first families entertained, from the Kennedys’ intimate children's tea, to the Clintons’ large holiday parties, to the Nixons’ tradition of opening the East Room for Mass in December. And learn how the annual gingerbread house grew into the imposing confection it is today

4–4:20 p.m.  How It’s Done

Christian Burke offers a 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 see how even the smallest details are planned to provide the greatest impact.

4:20–5 p.m. Crafting Traditions

Crafted ornaments and decorations have been a special part of White House Christmas celebrations for decades. View samples of Betty Ford's cardinal clothespin ornaments, Pat Nixon's state-flower balls, and Michelle Obama's hanging envelope ornaments. Find inspiration for your own décor in a demonstration of how to make Laura Bush's signature ornament topiary tree.

Enjoy some holiday cookies after the program.

S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)