Thursday, December 25, 2008

An Evening at the White House

I lived in Washington, DC as a child, and still have friends and family there. I was honored when one of my DC friends invited me as her guest to the White House Christmas party. It was an evening I will never forget! While my friend chatted with her colleagues, I wandered around the White House, gazing at the Christmas decorations and the priceless paintings and furniture that adorn the public rooms.

Each year the White House is decorated according to a theme. This year's theme is "A Red, White, and Blue Christmas", which celebrates the patriotic spirit of America that unites all Americans. I was wondering how the red, white, and blue theme would translate to Christmas decor; the result was truly spectacular, unique, and so appropriate to the White House. Christmas trees were laden with ornaments and ribbons of red, white and blue; mantels were decked with garland that contained silver eagles and miniature revolutionary war soldiers; sconces were decorated with evergreen branches tied with red, white, and blue ribbon.

After we cleared security, we walked through the entrance to the East wing, which was flanked with Uncle Sam nutcrackers. The patriotic nutcrackers certainly were welcoming and set the scene for what was to come.

Next came across Santa in his sleigh, but with a patriotic twist.

We then walked down a hall that was like a museum of Christmas in the White House. There were pictures from the Christmas season of every administration, and my favorite, framed displays of all the official White House Christmas cards sent by the President and First Lady through the years, grouped by administration.

Along the way of the Ground Floor Corridor were beautiful and unique Christmas decorations, such as this enormous poinsettia display in a container that looked like a drum. To appreciate the scale, the entire arrangement is almost as tall as the door to its left.

The hall turned, and we entered the main building of the White House (we had entered through the lower level, open to the back grounds of the White House). Along this hall was a lovely library, which had a beautiful chandelier (pictured above).

Also along this hall was the Vermeil room, a tranquil and elegant sitting room that contains portraits of many of the First Ladies. My favorite was the portrait of Jackie Kennedy.

There was also a china cabinet in this hall, with the official china from all of the past administrations.

Finally, we ascended the stairs to the main part of the White House. The Grand Foyer and Cross Hall were magnificent, with high ceilings and marble floors. A full military orchestra with conductor was here, playing songs of the season, along with many enormous Christmas trees.

Also off the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall is a magnificent doorway with the Presidential seal above; seen through the door is a glimpse of The Blue Room and the official White House Christmas tree.

The entrance to the private quarters is off the Grand Foyer, and is decorated with lighted garland.

My favorite chandelier in the White House was the one in the Grand Foyer. The shape and form remind me of the Genovese chandelier that I posted about last month. There were several more of this style in the Cross Hall between the State Dining room and the East Room.

In the Cross Hall, just before the entry to the State Dining Room, is the official portrait of Ronald Reagan. The official Presidential portraits all hang in the White House, and I saw quite a few of them that night. A lush arrangements of red tulips made a pretty display.

The White House State Dining Room had a long table that was laden with food. Also in the dining room was the White House gingerbread house. This year's gingerbread house features the South view of the White House, with Santa and his reindeer on the roof, and cookie replicas of members of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps march in front, a patriotic colonial tradition that was perfect with the patriotic theme of the decor. I took a picture that also captured the beautiful mirror in the dining room, with a reflection of the brass chandelier.

A portrait of Abraham Lincoln presides over the State Dining Room, and note the patriotic theme in the garland the decks the wall.

Along the back of the house are the Red room, the Green room, and the Blue Room. The Red Room, pictured above, features a portrait of Dolley Madison above the mantle. The mantle was decorated with garland adorned with red, white, and blue bells.

The curtains in the Red Room were quite elaborate.

The Blue Room featured the official White House Christmas tree. This year the tree is a fraser fir from North Carolina, and the tree is decorated with ornaments from every state in the country, selected by members of Congress.

It took me a while, but I finally found the ornament from Georgia, painted in a "Gone with the Wind" theme.

The floors of the Blue Room were in a herringbone pattern.

The Green Room was my favorite, perhaps because of my love for the color green. Silver eagles and stars adorned the garland in this room, and a portrait of Benjamin Franklin was above the mantel.

I liked this decoration in the green room. Notice the beautiful trim work.

The East Room is on the opposite end of the Cross Hall from the State Dining Room. This room is used frequently for press conferences and for celebrations. Of course, I noticed the chandeliers. I felt a bit foolish taking a picture of the chandelier, but I thought it was magnificent.

A treasured 18th century nativity set is displayed in the East Room every year at Christmastime.

The East Room featured four fireplaces, with identical mirrors featuring America's national bird, the bald eagle. Decorative eagles can be found all over the White House, from the furniture to the architectural features of the building.

President and Mrs. Bush were in attendance, however they were in the map room taking pictures with guests all night.

It was certainly a night I will never forget, and a once in a lifetime experience. I hope you enjoyed a small view into the White House, Christmas 2008!


  1. Great post. I love White House decor too. That Grand Foyer chandelier is awesome.

  2. I am so incredibly jealous. The chandys are stunnings, your photography is very good....and I love the picture of Reagan...still my favorite president and I do think one of the best. Miles and miles ahead of the incoming guy.

  3. I did not realize that photography was allowed, so I had to buy a camera on the way to the party! I did not know how to tone down the flash, so some of the pictures are a bit too saturated. I ended up using my no-flash iphone for some of the pictures.

    Thanks for stopping by! Hope you are having a wonderful day.

  4. I'm so glad you stopped by my blog to say hello! What an absolutely INCREDIBLE experience to attend the WH Christmas party! WOW! I can't even imagine how honored you must have felt and how awestruck w/ all the amazing decorations. The photos are just beautiful. Thank you for sharing with all of us and allowing us to experience a bit of it, too! Merry Christmas!

  5. Thanks for sharing your White House visit. I visited there at Christmas many years ago when I lived in the D.C. metropolitan area, and still have fond memories of the wonderful sights. Great pictures. It was nice to "visit" again.

    Merry Christmas.


  6. Fab post Sarah, and fascinating. You are the only person I know who's ever been inside the White House. I feel so special having this guided tour! ; )

    xo Terri

  7. What a treat! Thank-you for sharing!
    Looks like a royal tour.

  8. Thanks for the great tour of The White House. I guess I wouldn't have expected to be allowed to take pics either - but it makes sense. It's our house too! Thanks for sharing!

  9. What an exciting event! Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful images with us!

  10. I love the pictures! It would be a real treat to visit the White House, regardless of what time of year it was, but I'm sure it was especially fantastic during the holidays. My favorite is the chandelier in the East Room. Beautiful!

  11. Fabulous pictures and thanks for the trip down memory lane..I remember having the camera checked back in '81... geez, the years zip by!

  12. What an incredible experience! Thank you for sharing your pictures with us.

  13. just beautiful - my favorite post of yours of the year !!

  14. Thank you for the nice comments, everyone! I need to get an invitation to Buckingham Palace to top this experience.

  15. Wow! I was surprised that you were able to take pictures but so glad you did. How fun that you got to go -- a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thanks for sharing.

  16. How very special. I hope to tour there someday!

  17. That is so awesome that you were allowed to take pictures!

  18. I've been following your blog for a while and just read this older post about your visit to the White House - what a wonderful experience it must have been! I received a wonderful book for Christmas and wanted to share it with you. The book, "Christmas at the White House" by Jennifer Pickens, details the White House Christmas decorations from Jacqueline Kennedy through Laura Bush's years and is filled with amazing photos and historical detail. The author also has a blog http://fifeanddrumpress.com/blog/ that has beautiful photos of more recent Christmas decorations, recipes and interesting features including a recent post about the White House’s chief floral designer Laura Dowling, who is featured in the January issue of Veranda.


Thank you for your comments! I strive to make my blog positive in tone, and appreciate the same courtesy when comments are made. Thank you!


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