November 27, 2009
Two Belgian draft horses bedecked in red Christmas bows pulled a traditional horse-drawn carriage up Pennsylvania Ave. today in Washington, DC, stopping at the North Portico of the White House to deliver an 18-1/2 foot Douglas fir which will be used as the White House Christmas tree. First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha were on hand to receive the 12-foot wide tree, which will be decorated by thousands of volunteers and used as the personal Christmas tree of President Obama and his family. It will be displayed in the oval-shaped Blue Room on the State Floor, where tourists and White House party-goers can admire it.
Growers Eric and Gloria Sundback, college sweethearts who are now in their 80s and who have been Christmas tree farmers since 1956, personally presented the tree to Mrs. Obama and her children. The Douglas fir was planted at their Shepherdstown, WV farm in 1996. More than a dozen smaller trees from their farm will decorate other White House rooms, including the Oval Office. This is the fourth time that a Sundback-grown tree has been chosen as the White House Christmas tree. Since 1966, the winner of the National Christmas Tree Association’s annual contest has a tree selected from their farm for the White House. The Sundbecks won the contest twice during the Reagan administration and once during Jimmy Carter’s presidency. Mr. Sundback told CNN: “What we really like this year is that it’s going to the family.”
President Benjamin Harrison first put a Christmas tree in the White House in 1889, but it was not until 1961 that first lady Jacqueline Kennedy moved the official tree to the Blue Room, so that the public could enjoy it. The National Christmas Tree, a living Colorado blue spruce located south of the White House on the Ellipse, will be lit by the Obamas next Thursday.
Read about Canada’s peremptory strike, in which the country declared that Santa Claus is a Canadian citizen.
Photo credit: Jason Reed / Reuters and Jim Young / Reuters
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