The Eyes

The Eyes

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Holidays at The White House 2015

The holiday season at the White House is celebrated with an array of annual traditions, glittering holiday décor, fresh pine, and sugary treats. This year’s holiday theme, A Timeless Tradition, reflects long-held, cherished customs across America, and commemorates extraordinary moments that shaped the country during the past two centuries. The 2015 White House Holiday Tour Book (linked here) is brimming with beautiful illustrations by art students at Duke Ellington School for the Arts, in Washington, DC.

Highlights include:
  • The holiday décor was executed by 89 volunteers from around the country. Sixty-two trees and over 70,000 ornaments were used in this year's extravagant mix.
  • Three of the rooms feature creations by fashion designers Carolina Herrera, Duro Olowu, and Carol Lim and Humberto Leon. In a nod to the Obama Administration's new china pattern with a Kailua Blue stripe, Herrera integrated this stunning blue water color off the coast of the President's home state of Hawaii for package ribbons and other accents in the China Room.
  • In the Blue Room, a grand oval space overlooking the South Lawn and Washington Monument, is the official White House Christmas tree. Dedicated to our nation's service members, veterans, and their families, it is ornamented with holiday messages of hope for our troops and patriotic symbols of red, white, and blue.
  • At approximately 500 pounds, this year's White House Gingerbread House contains more than 250 pounds of gingerbread dough, 150 pounds of dark chocolate, 25 pounds of gum paste, 25 pounds of pulled and sculpted sugar work, and 25 pounds of icing—a White House pastry chef tradition since the 1970s.
  • A long-standing holiday custom—the White House crèche—has graced the East Room for more than 45 years, spanning nine administrations. The nativity scene made of terra cotta and intricately carved wood was fashioned in Naples, Italy in the eighteenth century.

I was like an excited, little kid experiencing the holiday magic, completely mesmerized by bright, shiny things! I'm still in awe being surrounded by all the history of the executive mansion. It was fascinating hearing Secret Service officers in each room engaged in conversations about the decorations, furnishings, and even the art. Below are a few photos from my recent afternoon at The White House.

Eight Thousand Snowflakes Grace
a White House Corridor
The Library with Five Literary-Themed Trees

The China Room with Kailua Blue Accents

The East Room and The White House Crèche

The Red Room with Real Cranberry Trees and
Magnolia and Berry Garland on Fireplace Mantel
The State Dining Room with
Thousands of Gumballs and Dozens of Nutrackers
A Festive White House Fireplace Mantel with Mirror 
The Glittering Cross Hall

Source | Office of the First Lady,  The White House
Photos | Cary Knox

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Holidays at the Thorne Miniature Rooms

The beloved decorating tradition is back at the Art Institute of Chicago—and continues to ramp up the festivities—with a Twelfth Night–themed room joining in the fun.

Several other rooms once again get their seasonal trimmings. Among the most elaborate is the English Drawing Room of the Victorian Period, the only room with a Christmas tree. Now a ubiquitous feature of the season, the Christmas tree ortannenbaum, was only brought to England from Germany in 1840 with the marriage of Prince Albert to Queen Victoria. The Thorne Room tree and accoutrements are based on a famous engraving of the royal couple and their children surrounding a trimmed and toy-bedecked tree, an image that would forever popularize this holiday fixture. Other ornamented rooms include:

  • The English Great Hall of the Tudor period with a wassailing bowl, yule log, and an essential part of the costuming for that period’s singing-dancing revelers—a mummer’s mask
  • The Virginia Entrance Hall with mistletoe, wreath, and garland
  • The French Provincial Bedroom with shoes, or sabots, lined up before the fireplace, a crèche, and puzzle
  • The modern-era California Hallway with an Otto Natzler mid-century menorah and box with a dreidel
  • The New Orleans, New Mexico, and the Pennsylvania Dutch (German) rooms filled with regional treats of the season
  • The 1930s French Library with a tiny taste of Art Deco holiday glamour
  • The traditional Chinese interior filled with shadow puppets and instruments that would have been used to celebrate the Chinese New Year as well as other festive occasions

The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. 

Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago and constructed between 1932 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications.

See the holiday display in the Thorne Miniature Rooms through January 10, 2016 at the Art Institute of Chicago.