A Visit From St. Nicholas
A Very American Holiday Season
Written in the the early nineteenth century to entertain and charm his
own children, Clement C. Moore's poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," is
now a treasured part of the American holiday tradition. It is so popular
that most people know it by its opening line, "'Twas the night before
Reading the poem aloud on Christmas Eve is one of the season's most
cherished rituals, not only for the First Family, but for families in all
parts of our nation.
So, in honor of families everywhere, the 1995 holiday decorations at the
White House celebrate the story of "The Night Before Christmas" with all
its humor and warmth.
This year, the First Family invited three distinct groups of artisans to
created ornaments for the White House trees. The American Institute of
Architects and architecture students designed ornaments representing the
house that is the scene of Santa's visit. Culinary schools sent
ornaments of confectionary delights, inspired by "visions of sugar
plums," while the American Needlepoint Guild and the Embroiderers Guild
of America created the traditional holiday stockings.
As always, each ornament is a delightful reminder of the variety of
American talent and imagination.
The East Entrance
As you enter the White House through the EAST WING entrance, you are
greeted by the first of our special holiday trees, which stands in the
EAST GARDEN ROOM. The tree is decorated with a sampling of the handmade
angel ornaments created by American craftspeople, and used during
Just outside the EAST COLONNADE, where oversized wreaths of lush greenery
are hung in each window, is the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, where an
exhibit of twentieth century American sculpture is on view. At the end
of the colonnade is the EAST FOYER, where you will find the tree
decorated whit ornaments from December 1994. The theme was "The Twelve
Days of Christmas," and the ornaments were submitted by art and design
schools from across the country, as well as the National Society of Tole
and Decorative Painters.
Also in the East Foyer is the retrospective exhibit of White House
Christmas cards dating back to the Eisenhower Administration. The official card for 1995
depicts the recently refurbished Blue Room, and the original painting by
Thomas McKnight entitled
"White House Blue Room."
The Diplomatic Reception Room
The GROUND FLOOR CORRIDOR is festooned with holiday greenery and
ribbons. Red and gold bows tied to the chandeliers continue the
traditional holiday theme.
To the left is the DIPLOMATIC RECEPTION ROOM where visiting dignitaries
are welcomed. On either side of the fireplace stand two trees decorated
with ornaments from the Department of Education's Blue Ribbon Schools.
Each school contributed eight ornaments, reflecting their interpretations
of the Clement C. Moore poem. The Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes
and supports primary and secondary schools that are noted for their
exceptional arts education, and their effectiveness in meeting the
national education goals.
The East Room
In the EAST ROOM, the traditional White House creche is the focal
point. This exquisite antique creche was made in Naples, Italy in the
late eighteenth century, and features 47 carved wood and terra cotta
figures. 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 it was presented in 1967.
Six lofty trees, ranging from 12 feet to 20 feet, and ornamented with
burgundy and gold ribbons, are stationed alongside the creche, at the
center windows, and flanking the hallway entrance. Mixed greenery and
hurricane candles decorate the mantels of the four fireplaces, and
musical groups from across the country fill the room with the sounds of
The GREEN ROOM is used as a parlor for small teas and receptions. Above
the fireplace hangs the renowned portrait of Benjamin Franklin by David
Martin. Holiday topiaries are festooned with greens and mauve flowers.
The mantel is decorated with a townscape created by twenty architects
from Community Design Services, through which architects and other design
professionals volunteer their time to provide design and architecture
services to non-profit community organizations.
The official White House tree, as always, stands in the BLUE ROOM. This
year, it is an 18-1/2 foot Fraser fir from Atwood Dollar Hudler Tree Farms
near West Jefferson, North Carolina. The tree was presented to the
President and Mrs. Clinton by Ronald Hudler and Daniel Dollar who won the
honor by being named 1995 National Grand Champion Growers by the National
Christmas Tree Association. The tree is decorated by the American
Institute of Architects and architecture students whose ornaments were
inspired by the lines, "'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through
the house..." Chimneys, windows, rooftops, shutters, and porches - all
bedecked for the holidays - can be seen on the tree. Also featured on
the Blue Room tree are the magnificent stockings created by the
Embroiderers Guild of America and the American Needlepoint Guild. The
green velvet hand-made skirt was designed by individual artisans from each
of the 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia, to celebrate
the first Clinton holidays at the White House.
The RED ROOM, furnished in classic American Empire style, is decorated
with holly and greenery that reflects the spirit of the season. The
mantel displays an architectural study inspired by the poem, and designed
by the 6th graders of John Eaton Elementary School in Washington, D.C.
with the help of Architecture in the Schools, which brings architects and
college-level architecture students into Washington-area classrooms.
The State Dining Room and Gingerbread House
Heads of state, foreign dignitaries, and guests from across the United
States are entertained in the elegant STATE DINING ROOM, where the famous
George P.A. Healy portrait of Abraham Lincoln hangs above the mantel.
Mixed greenery, along with burgundy and gold ribbons, drape the mantel
and decorate the sconces to create a festive mood.
The showcase piece in the State Dining Room is always the traditional
gingerbread house created by the White House Pastry Chef. This year, the
house is a sentimental favorite of the First Lady, as it is a replica of
her girlhood home on Wisner Street in Park Ridge, Illinois. The two
front rooms are done as they would appear in "The Night Before
Christmas:" the bedroom is filled with children "all snug in their beds,"
and the living room is complete with "stockings hung by the chimney with
care." The gingerbread house took nearly five months to create... and of
course, the entire creation is edible.
The Grand Foyer
The four large trees that flank the front door and stand between the
columns in the GRAND FOYER have a special theme all their own. Decorated
by chefs from cooking schools across the country, they are edible
examples of the line, "while visions of sugar plums danced in their
heads." With marzipan, gingerbread, cookie dough, pastillage and
chocolate, these culinary artists created some of this year's most
Also in the Grand Foyer, you will see the needlepoint "kissing ball" made
by master needlepoint artist, Hyla Hurley of Washington, D.C. It is a
miniature version of the tapestry which hangs in the First Family
residence, and depicts the road to the White House, from the Governor's
Mansion in Little Rock, via Monticello and a place called Hope.