Military Families Get White House Holiday Preview

By Karen Parrish DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON December 2, 2015 - As the year turns toward deck-the-halls season, the first lady welcomed military families to what she has called "America's house" for the first peek at 2015 holiday decorations and treat preparation.

Michelle Obama hosted the families, including a number of excited children, at the White House today, where staff members and volunteers have been crafting the annual holiday transformation of the 132-room mansion. 


*Service and the Holidays*

The first lady spoke to her guests before visiting some of those historic rooms with them.

"I want to honor all of our military families here today and around the world," she said. "Thank you, thank you, for your outstanding service. Thank you … for your sacrifice … [and] for being so brave and good and kind. That's why you guys get to be here first." 

The 2015 White House holiday theme is "A Timeless Tradition," Obama noted, adding that, as in past years, many elements of this season's decor are dedicated to service members, veterans and families -- including "our amazing military spouses and our fabulous military kids."

"The very first thing visitors will see … is a tree that pays tribute to our armed forces," the first lady said. "This tree is adorned with gold star ornaments that honor some of America's greatest heroes: the men and women who gave their lives for our country."

Next to that tree is an iPad station, she said, "that allows guests to tweet and email holiday wishes to our service members."

The 2015 official White House tree in the Blue Room, Obama added, is "covered from trunk to tip with messages from military families to their service members stationed around the country and around the world." 

After the holidays, the service members will receive those messages "as a special keepsake," she said.

*Celebrating the Season*

White House Executive Chef Chris Comerford, Executive Pastry Chef Susan Morrison and Chief Floral Designer Roshan Ghaffarian were also on hand, demonstrating holiday crafts and treats. 

Around 70,000 annual visitors have attended holiday parties or tours at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in recent years. Last year's decorations featured 26 Christmas trees and a 300-pound-plus gingerbread house. This year's house, Obama said, weighs in at 500 pounds.

The first lady and President Barack Obama have in previous years opened the executive mansion's doors for between 20 and 30 parties during the holidays, including Christmas and Hanukkah receptions. 

Bo, the senior Obama dog, has been a feature of holiday decor, "recreated," according to the White House website, "using pipe cleaners, trash bags, buttons, pompoms and even chocolate." Junior dog Sunny also reportedly gets lots of holiday attention. This year, the first lady said, the dogs have a tree dedicated especially to them, decorated with treats.

*Joining Forces for the Holidays, Too*

Today's event was part of the Joining Forces initiative, which Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, started in 2011. As the White House website describes it, Joining Forces "call[s] all Americans to rally around service members, veterans and their families and support them through wellness, education and employment opportunities."

The first lady told her guests today that one reason she and the second lady started the initiative is "because we want to make sure we're serving all of you, all of our men and women in uniform, our veterans [and] our military families as well as you're serving us."

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