Holidays at the White House
For over one hundred years, "The Nutcracker" ballet has been a seasonal favorite,
delighting children and grown-ups alike, and filling many a small child's head
with dreams of princes and princesses, beautiful fairies and brave soldiers.
This year, as a very personal tribute to the joy and family spirit of the holiday
season, this First Family has chosen to decorate the White House with magical
scenes from "The Nutcracker" ballet.
The First Family invited three groups of artisans, from across America, to create
ornaments for the White House trees: regional and professional ballet companies,
wood-working artists, and members of the American Needlepoint Guild and the
Embroiderers Guild of America.
Each ornament, inspired by personal recollections of "The Nutcracker" ballet,
presents a unique vision of this time-honored classic.
And as always, each ornament is a charming example of the artistry and imagination
found in every part of our country.
The East Entrance
Upon entering the White House through the EAST WING, you see the first of three
retrospective holiday trees; it stands in the East Garden Room, and is decorated
with angel ornaments created by American craftsmen for the 1993 Holidays at
the White House.
At the end of the EAST COLONNADE, where oversized wreaths hang in each window,
you come to the East Foyer, and our second
special tree. This 1994 Holiday tree is trimmed with ornaments representing
the "Twelve Days of Christmas" as interpreted by art and design school students,
as well as the National Society of Tole and Decorative Painters.
The White House Library is the site of
the tree which honors Holiday 1995. It is decorated with ornaments from architects
and architecture students that reflect the theme, "Twas the Night Before Christmas."
Needlepoint stockings stitched by members of the American Needlepoint Guild
and the Embroiderers Guild of America complete the tree.
Also in the East Foyer, is the exhibit of White House Christmas cards dating
back to the Eisenhower Administration. Showcased here, the original painting,
"The White House, The Green Room," by Thomas McKnight, from which
the official 1996 card was created.
Stockings were stitched by members of
the American Needlepoint Guild and the
Embroiderers Guild of America.
A focal point of the elegant EAST ROOM is
the traditional White House creche. It was made in Naples, Italy in the late
18th century. Its 47 carved wood and terra cotta figures epitomize the exquisite
artistry of old world craftsmanship. The creche was a gift to the White House
from Mrs. Charles Engelhard, Jr. of Far Hills, New Jersey, and has been displayed
each year since 1967 as part of the Holiday celebrations.
Six towering trees -- one on either side of the creche, one at each window,
and two flanking the entrance -- add greenery and majesty to the East Room.
The trees are beribboned in gold and burgundy, while mixed greens and hurricane
candles grace the mantels of each fireplace. Festive holiday music, provided
by groups from across the country, wafts through the air.
The GREEN ROOM, inspiration for the 1996 White House Christmas card, is used
for small teas and receptions. Throughout the year, the renowned portrait of
Benjamin Franklin by David Martin, which hangs above the fireplace, is a highlight
of this charming room. During the holidays, the mantel decoration becomes a
focal point, and this year the mantels in both the Green Room and Red Room were
designed and decorated under the direction of the accomplished holiday artist,
Christopher Radko, with assistance from a number of American artists and craftsmen,
including the costume department of the New York City Ballet.
The Green Room mantel was inspired by the winter beauty of the Sugar Plum Fairy
and her Cavalier. It glistens with shades of antique pink and wedgwood blue,
and sparkles with the spirit of snowflakes, sprites and fairies.
The Official White House Tree, an 18'6" Colorado Blue Spruce from the Scheetz
Tree Farm in Coshocton, Ohio, resides in the BLUE ROOM. It was presented to
the President and Mrs. Clinton by Kenny and Joann Scheetz and family who won
the honor by being named the 1996 National Grand Champion Growers by the National
Christmas Tree Association.
The decorations on the tree come from three distinct and talented groups: regional
and professional ballet companies contributed ornaments which represented their
own performances of "The Nutcracker" ballet, wood craft artisans created ornaments
depicting scenes or characters from the ballet, and members of the American
Needlepoint Guild and the Embroiderers Guild of America stitched holiday stockings
to hang on the tree. The green velvet handmade tree skirt was designed by individuals
from each of the 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia, in celebration
of the Clinton family's first holiday at the White House.
In the RED ROOM, which is furnished in classic American Empire style, is the
second of the Christopher Radko mantelpieces, its inspiration was the opening
act of "The Nutcracker," in which the children celebrate around the Christmas
tree. Along with characters from the ballet, look for figures from American
History, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The centerpiece of
this holiday confection is a candy castle covered with sweets.
The State Dining Room and Gingerbread House
Heads of state, dignitaries, and special guests are entertained in the beautiful
and spacious STATE DINING ROOM, where George P. Healy's famous portrait of Abraham
Lincoln hangs. Mixed greenery and ribbons on the mantel and sconces give the
room a festive air.
Of course, the holiday star of the State Dining Room is the traditional Gingerbread
House, created each year by the White House Pastry Chefs. In honor of "The Nutcracker,"
this year's edible edifice is modeled after a Victorian-era home. Outside, two
nutcracker soldiers stand guard, and in the warm and cozy parlor, the party
scene from the ballet is recreated.
As you enter the GRAND FOYER, look up to
see the needlepoint "kissing ball" designed and made by master needlepoint artist,
Hyla Hurley of Washington, D.C.. Mrs. Hurley chose to portray the children's
party, which is the same scene featured in the Gingerbread House in the State
The four large trees found in the Grand Foyer are decorated with gold ribbon,
gold ribbon roses and red glass ornaments.
The West Wing
A distinctive, handcast menorah adds
grace and beauty to the WEST WING. It was loaned to the White House by the artist,
Zachary Oxman from Hillsboro, Virginia, and represents the celebration of family
with dancing figurines. Mr. Oxman is one of the artists represented in the White
House Collection of American Crafts.
Art Direction & Design by H. Kemper Johnson
Text by Susan A. Cooper
Photography by James Wojcik
Illustration by James Noel Smith
HOLIDAYS AT THE WHITE HOUSE
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