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Jill Biden unveils 'gifts from the heart' White House holiday decor

By Simon Druker & Daniel Uria
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Jill Biden unveils 'gifts from the heart' White House holiday decor
Holiday decor is seen in the East Room Monday during the 2021 White House holiday decor preview entitled "Gifts from the Heart." Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

Christmas decor begins at the East Wing entrance, expressing gifts of service, of the White House during the 2021 White House holiday decor preview in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Photo Leigh Vogel/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 29 (UPI) -- First lady Jill Biden unveiled the holiday decorations Monday at the White House, where 41 Christmas trees, about 6,000 feet of ribbon and over 300 candles are on display.

The 2021 theme, "Gifts from the Heart," features a different theme in each room of the White House each meant to "tell a story" ranging from "the gift of service," to nature, performing arts and those who serve in America's armed forces.

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"This season may look different for each of us," Biden said. "The ways we celebrate, the prayers we pray, the customs that define these days -- they are as varied as the people who make up this country. But at the core of our traditions are threads that unite us all: faith, family and friendship; gratitude and service; love for our community."

Biden also honored National Guard members and their families to thank them for their work in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as those who are spending the season apart.

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She was joined by Capt. Maryanne V. Harrell and her family Monday afternoon. Harrell is the unit commander for the District of Columbia Army National Guard Medical Detachment. The family also joined the first lady for the official White House Christmas tree arrival on Nov. 22.

The Bidens' official Christmas card contains a remembrance for those who died of COVID-19.

"When it gets difficult -- when the pandemic keeps us apart; when we struggle to get by; or feel like the weight of our lives is just to heavy to carry -- these constants remind us we are not alone," she said of the holiday celebrations. "They heal us."

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Last year's theme under first lady Melania Trump was "America the Beautiful," which focused on the country's natural wonders, while also honoring front-line workers.

This year, trees in the State Dining room are framed with photos of past first families. The Trumps, Obamas, both Bushes, Reagans and Carters all have photos on the tree.

The Biden family photos include the kids and grandchildren along with dogs Champ and Major. There are also many Biden family photos on the two trees picked out by the first lady on her few trips to Delaware.

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"We've been talking with the first lady and meeting with the first lady since early summer about her theme and about the decor for the season," Biden's social secretary Carlos Elizondo said. "And, I mean, the theme obviously speaks for itself -- Gifts From the Heart -- and you will find every room with sort of an element of another theme, a sub theme, if you will."

Biden welcomed a second-grade class from a nearby elementary school Monday for the official unveiling of the White House decorations. She also read Don't Forget, God Bless our Troops for the students and watched a puppet show with them. During the same event, she thanked the over 100 volunteers who decorated the White House with more than 10,000 ornaments.

Displaying an official White House Christmas tree decorated by presidential wives has been a tradition since 1929 when it started under first lady Lou Henry Hoover. In 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy became the first to pick a specific theme, decorating with a Nutcracker ornamentation.

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