29 November, 2017
Thursday night, United States President Donald Trump and his wife Melania will light America's national Christmas tree in a park near the White House. A crowd will gather around the tree for the lighting ceremony.
Many Americans also are planning to visit the White House in the coming weeks to see its decorations for the holiday season.
"The decorations are up!" Melania Trump tweeted Monday morning. "@WhiteHouse is ready to celebrate! Wishing you a Merry Christmas & joyous holiday season!"
The theme for the White House decorations this year is "Time-Honored Traditions."
Traditional Christmas wreaths are hanging outside every window of the White House, the official home of presidents, in Washington, D.C. On top of each wreath is a bright red bow.
Inside the building, visitors find a hallway lined with long, snow-white tree branches and shining lights. That hall leads to a tree with the Trump family's official Christmas ornament. The gold-colored metal decoration shows the presidential coat of arms surrounded by a wreath of holly.
On Monday, first lady Melania Trump welcomed students from a military base in Maryland to see the White House. They also got to make a few holiday decorations with her.
"Are you the first lady?" asked one little boy, who then moved in for a hug. Classmates quickly followed for hugs of their own.
Ballet dancers performed at the White House as part of the official start of the holiday season. The first lady wore a white dress and gold-toned shoes for the event.
The dancers looked similar to those at the first themed Christmas at the White House in 1961. At that time, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy had dancers performing to Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky's famous "Nutcracker Suite."
"Surprise," Melania Trump said on Tuesday, as she later entered the Red Room, where children were working on Christmas decorations.
"So you want to show me how to do it?" she asked after sitting at a table with four students. A boy showed her how to make them.
Nearby was the Trump family Christmas card, along with cards from past presidents.
"Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year," says the Trumps' card, signed by the president, the first lady and Barron Trump, their 11-year-old son.
That greeting is a change from the years when Barack Obama and his family were living in the White House. During his presidency, the cards offered more inclusive messages, such as "Season's Greetings" or wishes for happy holidays.
Donald Trump has promised to put "Christmas" back at the center of the winter holidays. During his presidential campaign, he argued that saying "Happy Holidays" was a way of "chipping away at Christianity."
Among the Christmas decorations this year is a 5.5-by-1.8-meter Balsam fir from Wisconsin. The tree occupies the center of the White House's Blue Room. Decorations representing every state and U.S. territory hang from its branches.
A separate tree near the East Wing entrance honors military families who have lost loved ones.
In the State Dining Room, a 160-kilogram gingerbread house offers a view of the White House from its South Lawn. Candy-covered wreaths hang from every window and a U.S. flag flies from its sugary housetop.
Jennifer Pickens, an expert on White House traditions, predicted that this year's window wreaths will become a tradition for future first ladies.
More than 150 volunteers from 29 states spent 1,600 hours over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend getting the White House ready for the holidays. The White House said Melania Trump chose every detail of the design.
The holiday celebrations began Monday with a party for the volunteers. Parties and other events — sometimes two a day — will continue for the next several weeks.
More than 25,000 people are expected to visit the White House over the next few weeks. Plenty of food is ready and waiting for them. Workers have baked 31,000 cookies, including 15,000 sugar cookies. Many of those are expected to go home with visitors.
I'm Pete Musto.
The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
decoration - n.something that is added to something else to make it more attractive
wreath - n. an arrangement of leaves or flowers in the shape of a circle that is worn or placed as a sign of honor or victory
ornament - n. a small, fancy object that is put on something else to make it more attractive
bow - n. a knot that is made by tying a ribbon or string into two or more loops and that is used for tying shoelaces or for decoration
hug - n. the act of putting your arms around someone or something as a way of showing love or friendship
chipping away - expression to slowly make something weaker, smaller, or less effective.
gingerbread - n. a cake or cookie made with molasses and ginger — often used before another noun