US military honored with theme inspired by Joining Forces campaign...and First Dog Bo is everywhere...
First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday afternoon welcomed military families to the White House as she unveiled the 2011 holiday theme, "Shine, Give, Share," inspired by her Joining Forces campaign. Gold Star and Blue Star families were the first to view the decorations, and the kids had a special craft-making session in the State Dining Room after Mrs. Obama explained her theme. *CLICK HERE for all 2011 White House holiday posts. CLICK HERE for all Holiday Photos of the Day. (Above: Mrs. Obama and kids with Executive Chef Cris Comerford, making dried fruit ornaments)
President Obama recently announced that troops in Iraq will be home for the holidays, and the lavish seasonal display is devoted both to those who are serving the country and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. The First Lady was introduced by Gold Star mother Jennifer Jackman as she spoke in the East Room to the excited crowd of military families. (Above: Mrs. Obama during her remarks)
"We're using the holiday season here at the White House to highlight our troops and our veterans, and all of their families," Mrs. Obama said.
Almost 100 volunteers from around the US helped decorate the 37 Christmas trees and the rest of the White House this year. Thirty of the trees are real, and 7 are made from paper, felt or aluminum. Two of the key trees honor military families: There's a Blue Star Family Tree and a Gold Star Family Tree, which Jackman helped create.
The "shine" element is replicated all around the White House with shiny materials, such as silver, gold, and copper ribbons, and it's also intended to invoke military medals. Other decor is created with recycled and everyday materials, such as construction paper and aluminum cans. There's a big focus on the natural world, too, with plenty of greens and dried fruit in evidence, as well as holiday floral arrangements. Click here to download the 2011 White House Holiday Tour Book.
Deck the Halls With Bo & Holly...
First Dog Bo is also a theme. Statues of the Portuguese Water Dog, large and tiny, and made of everything from licorice and marshmallows to trash bags, are all over the White House. A 4 1/2 foot-tall felt model of Bo is in the Booksellers, in the East Wing (above).
"It’s sort of a "where’s Bo?" Mrs. Obama said of the sub-theme, calling the First Dog "the most famous member of the Obama family."
"Trust me, our dog has been a little confused walking around the house for the last couple of weeks, seeing himself in gigantic form."
The Blue Star Family Tree...
The Official White House Christmas Tree, delivered to Mrs. Obama on the day after Thanksgiving, is in the Blue Room. The 18-foot-6-inch Balsam Fir grown in Neshkoro, Wisconsin, and honors Blue Star families. (Above: A detail of the ornaments)
"We decorated the official White House Christmas Tree with cards we collected from some of our country’s military kids," Mrs. Obama said.
The tree also has medals, badges, and patches from all of the military branches displayed on ornaments, and historic military images in volunteer-made pine cone frames.
"Some are inspiring," Mrs. Obama said of the cards. "Like the five children in Medical Lake, Washington, who wrote, 'No matter how many Christmases our dad misses, he makes every Christmas special and we love him.'"
The Gold Star Family Tree...
Mrs. Obama said that about 85,000 visitors will view the decorations, and the first thing they will see is the Gold Star Christmas tree in the East Wing, which honors military families who have lost a loved one. (Above: Jackman with the tree)
"The tree is decorated with beautiful, special ornaments, each of which has a space for Gold Star families who visit here to write their loved one’s name and to hang it on the tree," Mrs. Obama said.
A table holding gold star-shaped ornaments and Sharpie pens sits beside the tree so families can create the mementos. There's also a video monitor with stories of lost loved ones, and a mailbox so visitors can write messages to send to the troops. Jackman's son Ryan Jackman was killed while on active duty with the US Marines in 200, and he has a star on the tree.
"I’ve been inspired by the survivors of our fallen who keep giving back to the community day after day," Mrs. Obama said.
And of course there's the 400-pound White House Gingerbread House, created by Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses. Covered with white chocolate, it, too, stars Bo, as well as a mini edition of the First Lady's Kitchen Garden. Both were decorative elements for Yosses' 2009 and 2010 houses, too. The marzipan Kitchen Garden this year is covered with hoop houses, just like the real Kitchen Garden. The house features working lights and almost everything is edible.
During the craft session in the State Dining Room, there were three tables set up, and Mrs. Obama visited each one with the kids. One table starred Bo, and Mrs. Obama watched as kids made Bo ornaments with pom poms and black tape (above).
The next table held gingerbread cookies, and Yosses and Assistant Pastry Chef Susie Morrison decorated gingerbread cookies with kids (the recipe is here). Then there was Comerford's table, where she demonstrated how to make ornaments with dried fruit.
But the real Bo was brought into the room, and all thoughts of crafts were forgotten as the kids mobbed him. Mrs. Obama crouched down and spoke with the kids--many barely taller than Bo--and encouraged them to pet him. After wishing all a happy holidays, she and the First Dog left as the kids continued their craft making.
*The transcript of Mrs. Obama's remarks is here.
Earlier in the day, Mrs. Obama gave the keynote address at Partnership for a Healthier America's inaugural childhood obesity summit. (Above: The Blue Star Tree in the Blue Room)
*Photos by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama