First Lady Jill Biden speaks to leadership of the National Guard and volunteers as she unveils the White House 2022 Holiday Decorations at the White House on Monday. File Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI. | License Photo
Nov. 28 (UPI) -- First lady Jill Biden on Monday unveiled holiday decorations at the White House based around the theme "We the People."
Biden began the ceremony by recounting her travels to nearly 40 states across the nation over the last two years, from the "optimism that glowed on the faces of future teachers in Tennessee" to naturalization ceremonies in California and meeting with military families at bases around the country.
"What we share is so much greater than the things that pull us apart. The soul of our nation is and has always been We The People," Biden said, referencing the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.
"And that is what has inspired this year's White House holiday decorations. The values that unite us can be found all around you, a belief in possibility and optimism and unity."
This year's dazzling array features 77 Christmas trees, all uniquely decorated, and a miniature gingerbread White House, made with 50 sheets of cookie dough, 30 pounds of chocolate, and 40 pounds of frosting.
More than 83,600 lights adorn the trees, garlands, wreaths, and other holiday displays, while 25 classic wreaths line the north and south facades of the White House.
A different holiday theme is featured in each public room of the White House, with décor that "represents what brings us together during the holidays and throughout the year."
Biden said that Gold Star trees have been decorated to honor "those who have laid down their lives for our country and the families who carry on their legacies" while decorations in the library "celebrate how the stories we share bring us closer to each other."
"In the Vermeil Room, we honor how the smallest acts of kindness and appreciation really do matter. In the China Room, we remember family traditions passed down at dinner tables full of laughter," Biden said.
"In the East Room, where we are right now, we highlight the national treasures that belong to all of us -- the National Parks. ... And in the Green Room, bells of all kinds remind of us the healing and unifying power of music."
Biden added that the official birds of all 57 states and territories have been woven together to transform the 18-foot Christmas tree "into a stunning symbol of unity," in the Blue Room of the White House, which she particularly called "magnificent."
"Throughout these halls, from the shining bells to the mirrored ornaments in the grand foyer behind me, you will see your own reflection," Biden said.
She particularly honored the families of members of National Guard forces in states across the country, who join to serve the United States while also pursuing their own careers at home.
"Your service is the embodiment of We The People, so to all the National Guard families, please wave so that we can applaud you," Biden said during the event.
She then thanked the more than 150 volunteers from across the country who took a week to decorate the White House for their hard work in completing the decorations.
"Now some of you may still have a little glue gun residue on your fingers or a sore back from hanging up all that snow in the colonnade," Biden said.
"But I also hope you've made some lifelong friends and felt the unique joy that only comes from the chaos of the holidays."
This year's theme of "We the People" was announced by Biden's office in a Monday statement that echoed President Joe Biden's message of uniting the country amid a rise in gun violence and extremism in the United States.
"We the People. These words are the foundation of our extraordinary country and the Soul of our Nation," Jill Biden said in a welcome letter that also spelled out the official White House holiday guide.
"At the holidays, Americans come together each year in fellowship and faith, reminding us that we are stronger in community than we are apart."
Biden said during Monday's ceremony that she was proud that an art teacher had illustrated this year's holiday guide.
The wonderland display of decorations is a long-held tradition that officially welcomes yuletide at the White House each year.
The first lady began planning for the holidays back in spring and had the final designs mapped out by mid-year, her office said.
More than 50,000 tourists are expected to visit throughout the holidays for in-person tours. The White House also plans to offer virtual walkthroughs that will also provide close-up views of the decorations online.
Biden said she hoped that this year's decorations would instill a sense of unity in the collective consciousness of the nation.
"For this year's holidays at the White House, we hope to capture the spirit embodied in the very idea of America: We the People. During your visit to the People's House, through rooms full of history and holiday décor, in the mirrored ornaments and reflective lights, our hope is that you feel at home and find yourself in the great story of America."
First lady Jill Biden inspects the White House Christmas Tree alongside her grandson Beau Biden Jr. on the North Portico of the White House on November 21, 2022. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo