We may live in a nation that appears to be more than divided than ever, but if there's one thing most people can agree on, it is that Christmastime is special.
Now that we've ushered in December, we're starting to feel the holiday spirit across the country. The White House is no exception. This week, First Lady Melania Trump finally unveiled this year's decorations at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Melania continues the longstanding tradition of decking the halls of the White House to mark the start of the festive season. This year's theme is "The Spirit of America."
"'The Spirit of America' is shining in the @WhiteHouse!" the First Lady wrote on Instagram. "I am delighted to share this beautiful exhibit of patriotism for all to see, and excited for everyone to experience the beauty of the #Christmas season!"
She shared the note alongside a short video that shows her walking around the house, adjusting the decor and sprinkling fake snow on a tree."
Given the scale of the festive decor, Melania began planning a few months ago.
"#Christmas planning has begun in the East Wing at the @WhiteHouse," she tweeted back in July "I'm looking forward to sharing our final vision for this unique tradition in the coming months."
This year's theme is described as "a tribute to the traditions, customs, and history that make our Nation great." The First Family want to "celebrate the courageous individuals who have shaped our country and kept the American spirit alive."
"This Christmas season I want to honor those who have shaped our country and made it the place we are proud to call home, and I am excited to announce our White House holiday theme, ‘The Spirit of America’ ” said Melania. “When I travel the country, I am inspired by the hard working people and families that I meet. No matter which state they call home, many Americans share a strong set of values and deep appreciation for the traditions and history of our great nation. Thank you to all of the staff and volunteers who worked to make sure the People’s House was ready for Christmas. Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."
The decor features a Gold Star Family Tree adorned with golden stars and patriotic ribbons and a tree in the Library that honours past presidents. The ornament at the center of this year's tree honors President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The iconic gingerbread house is also back. It features the South Portico of the White and other iconic U.S. landmarks. The masterpiece required 200 pounds of gingerbread dough, 35 pounds of chocolate and 25 pounds of royal icing.
A winter garden display occupies the Grand Foyer and Cross Hall. Along the walls are 22 evergreens, 14 golden magnolia topiaries and 10 floral urns.
For the home's official Christmas tree, the First Lady and her team opted for a 18-foot tree from Mahantongo Valley Farms in Pitman, Pennsylvania.
Outside, the National Park Service planted a 30-foot Colorado blue spruce from Palmyra, Pennsylvania on the Ellipse in President’s Park. The new tree, whic is surrounded by 56 smaller trees, will be lit for the first time during this year's National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on December 9. The spruce will be adorned with one-of-a-kind ornaments that represent every state, territory and the District of Columbia. You can watch the broadcast of the event on REELZ at 8.pm. and on Ovation at 9 p.m. ET.
While the theme of patriotism is evident every year, other aspects of the 2019 decor is a bit of a departure from previous years. Melania's use of red in 2018 for the "American Treasures" theme drew a lot of criticism. In fact, the backlash was so strong that the First Lady responded with a statement.
The reaction was so strong that FLOTUS eventually issued a response. “We are in the 21st century and everybody has a different taste. I think they look fantastic,” Melania said.
Coleen Christian Burke, who led the Christmas decorating team during the Obama administration, came to Melania's defence: “What she was doing with those very large cranberry trees was throwing back to history and reinterpreting it. They were fake cranberries, but it was a real connection to First Ladies.”
In 2017, Melania's gray and white decor for the theme of "Time-Honored Traditions" had people accusing her of being dull and tasteless.
Burke, explained that "the red topiary roping wrapping the branches was a nod to Laura Bush."
I would recommend avoiding any boxes of Turkish Delight Melania tries to offer you. pic.twitter.com/Kh9CNnMB55— Caroline Siede (@CarolineSiede) November 27, 2017
One thing that remains consistent is Melania's appreciation for the volunteers who work hard to bring the lavish decor to life.
"Volunteers are hard at work at the @WhiteHouse. Thank you to all who came all across our great nation to decorate the People’s House," the First Lady wrote on Instagram.