First lady Melania Trump skipped the traditional press preview of the White House holiday decorations Monday, tweeting out a 56-second video of herself wandering through the glittery, dressed-up rooms in a dark coat and boots.
Was she upstairs baking star-shaped sugar cookies using her recipe, which appears in the official White House holiday printed program?
Her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said Trump decided "to let the decorations speak for themselves."
Members of the media were invited on a brisk 30-minute self-guided tour through the holiday wonderland of more than 20,000 feet of lights and 12,000 bows, put up over the past few days with the help of 225 volunteers. Official theme: American Treasures. The color red was big, appearing in a dramatic forest of 40 towering crimson topiary trees in the East Colonnade and on 14,000 ornaments in the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall.
The first lady's office described the red motif: "The choice of red is an extension of the pales, or stripes found in the presidential seal designed by our Founding Fathers. It is a symbol of valor and bravery."
However, the unconventional grove of red trees evoked an immediate reaction online. They were described as scary and referred to as the "hallway of Yuletide murders," "the avenue of blood red trees" and ominous.
Green Room decorations celebrate the country's harvest and include fruits, grains and vegetables, including aptly colored artichokes and tomatoes, which were artfully arranged on mantels and antique tabletops. The East Room featured mantel pieces trimmed with silhouetted skylines of New York, St. Louis, Chicago and San Francisco. The China Room presented table settings of three state dinners, including the Trump administration's sole such soiree for the president of France.
In the Red Room, wreaths made of pencils bearing Melania Trump's "Be Best" logo and "Be Best" tree ornaments highlighted the first lady's signature initiative on issues facing children, including cyberbullying. The traditional White House gingerbread house was supersize, made of 225 pounds of dough, and included not only 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. but the entire Mall.
On the second year of Trump Christmas, the first lady decided not to appear in person to unveil the work of her staff and volunteers, a gig first ladies since at least as far back as Nancy Reagan made a part of their official White House duties.
Over the years, first ladies have appeared in blinking Christmas tree pins and emerald green dresses. Some served long buffet tables of artisan cheeses, lamb chops and spiked eggnog that would be on the menus of that year's holiday parties. Sometimes the artist of the official White House Christmas card would be introduced, or the White House chief florist would be around to answer questions.
Sometimes it wasn't all festive. Facing reporters at the 1986 media preview of holiday decorations, Reagan denied that she and President Ronald Reagan had been bickering over whether Chief of Staff Donald Regan should be fired.
At the 1991 preview, Helen Thomas, longtime White House correspondent for United Press International, asked Barbara Bush how she thought the economic "depression" (a word never uttered at the White House) would affect Christmas 1991. "I hope it will make people think of others and give more to people in need," said the first lady.
At the Clintons' first Christmas at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in 1994, Hillary Clinton fielded questions in front of the Blue Room tree. When asked about an allegation from Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., that a quarter of White House staffers had used drugs before coming to work there, she deemed the accusation "unfair" and said she was sure the White House chief of staff would respond.
During her years in the White House, Michelle Obama appeared at the holiday decor unveiling with her dogs for photos but did not take questions from reporters.
At last year's media event, Trump in an off-white dress and gold stilettos made a dramatic entrance down the stairs into the White House's Grand Foyer to the tune of "The Nutcracker Suite" as ballerinas danced around her. Although she didn't speak to reporters, she wandered through the decorated rooms interacting with schoolchildren and was available for photo ops.
This holiday season, the White House will host 100 December open houses and receptions, the same as last year. And they expect 30,000 visitors to walk through the halls on holiday tours.
A couple of new traditions for the Trumps were also visible: The Melania Trump "signature wreaths" (pine circles with red bows) that made their debut last year have returned, displayed on White House exterior windows. At the end of the media tour, reporters were handed small custom green-and-red boxes of Hershey's Kisses, the official token of Christmas at the White House 2018.
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