The White House Christmas tree on display in the Blue Room, 2022
From the 1975 handmade felt decorations of Betty Ford and her daughter Susan to the lively winter South Lawn ice skating rink of Amy Carter to the winter wonderland enjoyed by Malia and Sasha Obama, our first ladies have created holiday memories for their families while curating a holiday experience for the public. Coleen Christian Burke, a former White House design partner and author of Christmas with the First Ladies, examines how modern first ladies have combined the shimmer of holiday magic with meaningful reflection, creating a celebration narrative for all Americans.
1–3 p.m. First Ladies’ Traditions
Christian Burke uses the holidays and photographs as a lens to focus on significant causes dear to modern first ladies from Jackie Kennedy to Jill Biden. See how Kennedy included cultures from around the world in her Christmas traditions and Michelle Obama honored our military in her holiday efforts. First ladies’ themes for decorating for the holidays are discussed, as is an overview of religious symbols in the White House, including the Christian creche, the Jewish menorah, and the red and green candles of Kwanzaa. Learn how celebrating a Sunday Christian worship service was a cornerstone of Pat Nixon's Christmas experience. Plus, take a black-and-white photographic journey into Christmas past at the White House.
3 p.m. Break
3:15–4 p.m. Decorating the Obama White House
First ladies work diligently to spotlight American artisans, traditions, and historical events. As a design partner for first lady Michelle Obama, Christian Burke shares firsthand stories of decor ideas that made it into the Obama White House. She tells of learning about antique carousel art and the Charlotte Dinger collection of carousel horses that was chosen to be part of the 2014 Christmas decor. She also talks about other projects that were selected and a few that were considered.