First Lady Michelle Obama hugs a child from a military family during the… (Olivier Douliery / Abaca…)
WASHINGTON -- “Joy to All” is the theme of the Obamas’ fourth Christmas in the White House, which threw open its festive, fir-draped doors today to the first guests of the season: U.S. troops and their children.
Fifty-four live Christmas trees lend color and sparkle to the executive mansion. The largest of the trees is an 18-foot-6-inch Fraser fir from North Carolina that is festooned with ornaments crafted by children on U.S. military bases around the world.
Amid the greenery and garlands, another highlight: a gingerbread house, weighing almost 300 pounds, featuring lighted chandeliers and a replica of First Lady Michelle Obama’s garden.
The inaugural guests included Capt. Luis Avila, 42, and his wife and son. Avila lost a leg and suffered a brain injury from a makeshift bomb in Afghanistan during his fifth wartime deployment.
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Obama engaged four Chicago artists -- David Condon, David Lee Csicsko, Jami Darwin Chiang and Heidi Feinerman -- to add creative touches to the decor, along with Chicago event planner Gabrielle Martinez.
They joined about 85 volunteers from 38 states and the District of Columbia. Tracy Jacobson, 54, a retired detective from Irvine, Calif., was among the volunteers. “Amazing,” she called the experience. “One of the most incredible things of my life.”
A replica of Bo, the Obamas’ black-and-white Portuguese water dog, appears outside the gingerbread house, and, as in previous years, has a starring role throughout the White House’s Christmas displays.
The estimated 90,000 visitors who will stream through in coming weeks will receive a bookmark with check-off boxes to signify they’ve spotted Bo ornaments or “Boflakes” in eight locales, including the Red Room and the Green Room.
His own quarters — the Bo-val Office, so to speak — is not part of the tour.
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