WASHINGTON (AP) – The holiday decorations unveiled Monday for Joe and Jill Biden’s first Christmas at the White House honor frontline workers who have persevered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nurses, doctors, teachers, grocery workers and more are recognized in this year’s gigantic gingerbread White House, which has been transformed into a 350 pound (158.76 kilogram) gingerbread village with adding a school and police, fire department and gas stations as well as a hospital, post office, grocery store and warehouse to honor workers who stayed on the job.
Fewer people are likely to see the decorated mansion in person this year, with public tours still suspended due to the continuing threat of COVID-19. But videos, photos and other details are available at WhiteHouse.gov/holidays.
“Gifts from the Heart” is the theme.
In remarks thanking the volunteers for the decoration, the first lady explained the vision behind her theme, speaking of unity and her perspective that everyone comes together around faith, family and friendship, gratitude and service, and love for his community.
“For all of our differences, we are united by what really matters,” she said. “Like the tips of a star, we come together in the heart. This is what I wanted to reflect in our White House this year. In each room we tell a story of gifts from the heart.
The first lady, a longtime community college teacher, invited Maryland sophomores for the unveiling of the holiday decorations on Monday. They were inspired by people the president and the first lady met on a trip across the country this year, according to the White House.
Frontline workers are also pictured in the iridescent doves and shooting stars that light up the east colonnade corridor, “representing the peace and light that all frontline workers and first responders bring to us during the pandemic,” indicates the guide.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the White House holiday season in other ways, although it is not clear how parties and receptions can be altered to compensate for it.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said parties will be held, although they will be “different” from previous years. An indication will come on Wednesday when President and First Lady and Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff light a menorah to celebrate Chanukah. Emhoff, who is Jewish, helped light the National Menorah on the Ellipse Sunday.
The volunteers who decorated the White House came only from the surrounding area, instead of all over the United States as in previous years, due to concerns over COVID-19.
The White House has also not been spared from the supply shortages that many Americans face. Some topiary trees took a bit longer to arrive, said social secretary Carlos Elizondo.
The other flagship of the White House vacation is the official Christmas tree, an 18-foot (5.5-meter-tall) Fraser tree that commands the Blue Room and is trimmed with white doves and a ribbon bearing the names of all US states. and territories to celebrate peace and unity.
More than 100 volunteers decorated the White House, including the Oval Office, while the Bidens spent Thanksgiving week in Nantucket, Massachusetts. They pruned 41 Christmas trees and hung some 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) of ribbon and more than 10,000 ornaments.
Twenty-five wreaths adorn the exterior of the White House and nearly 79,000 lights illuminate Christmas trees, garlands, wreaths and other holiday displays.
Christmas stockings for each of Biden’s grandchildren – Naomi, Finnegan, Maisy, Natalie, Hunter and baby Beau – hang from the fireplace mantel in the State Dining Room, which celebrates the family, while two trees in this stately room are decorated with the Biden family framed photos and photos of other early families during the holiday season.
Most of the photos are the favorites of Jill Biden, who chose them from old family albums on her trips to Delaware, said Elizabeth Alexander, the first lady’s director of communications.
The decorations are the product of months of work by the first lady and her team in the east wing of the White House since June.
A sophomore class from Malcolm Elementary School in Waldorf, Maryland was invited to the White House and joked with PBS Kids characters Martin and Chris Kratt from “Wild Kratts” and costumed characters Miss Elaina, Daniel Tiger , Molly of Denali, Arthur and Rosita from “Sesame Street”.
The first lady then read her children’s book, “Remember God Bless Our Troops.
“Let’s move on to happier things,” she said after stopping to ask the children about their pets and a boy started talking about her dogs who had died.
She invited a local National Guard family whose daughter was a second-grader to highlight the role the Guard played in the U.S. response to COVID-19, and military families spending the holidays away from loved ones .
Stay up to date on all the latest news from Boston.com