Between omicron, inflation, and a variety of problems both within and outside U.S. borders, Joe and Jill Biden have a lot on their plates. But hey, it’s the holidays! And so, as tradition goes, the first couple took a break from serious stuff to decorate the White House for Christmas.
More than 100 volunteers joined the president and first lady in making The People’s House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. gleam merry and bright. Indeed, 41 trees were hauled in, along with 25 wreaths, 10,000 ornaments (including one with their own portrait, shown below), and nearly 80,000 lights (we sincerely hope they have a method for keeping them untangled).
“As we celebrate our first holiday season in the White House, we are inspired by the Americans we have met across the country,” Jill Biden shared as she unveiled the holiday finery to the public.
Pegged to the theme “Gifts From the Heart,” each display has its own “gift” attached, as in “the gift of learning,” “the gift of gratitude,” and “the gift of visual arts.”
Oh—and don’t forget the gingerbread house. This year’s spiced and iced confection features not just a huge version of the White House, but also eight hometown structures that evoke the tough job front-line workers had this past year (think police, firefighters, grocery clerks, and more).
What designers really think of Jill Biden’s holiday decor
But like everything that happens in Washington, DC, there are opinions that run the gamut related to Biden’s choice in holiday color palette and themes. That’s politics, after all!
Some professional designers, like Andra DelMonico at Trendey, felt the themes were a bit difficult to grasp, even “muddled and requiring long-winded explanations.”
“If you’re going to have a theme, it should be easily recognizable,” DelMonico explains. “But each room has a subtheme like faith, family, nature, service, and unity—stop overcomplicating it.”
And not every bauble works, alas.
“There’s no focal point or memorable showpiece,” DelMonico adds. “And some things don’t even look like Christmas decorations, like the art tribute in the Vermeil Room.”
And what’s with the oversized “Alice in Wonderland” gifts surrounding the East Wing entrance?
“These red and blue gifts with the giant bow are way too much—it makes me flinch every time I look at it,” says Marco Bizzley, an interior designer and consultant at HouseGrail.
But there’s also lots to love, say the experts, particularly the tree with doves, which “offers a sense of peace and hope,” says Bizzley.
DelMonico gives points to the tree that celebrates family, with the miniature framed images of first families throughout the years.
“That’s a great idea and one you could easily do in your own home,” she says.
How Biden’s holiday decor compares with past administrations’
Still, as we take in this year’s White House holiday decor, it makes sense to harken back to past presidencies and compare the looks.
For starters, Biden’s decor certainly seems a bit bland when placed alongside Melania Trump‘s far more striking (or some might say frightening) all-red tree parade in the East Colonnade during Donald Trump‘s stint in office.
Meanwhile, Barack and Michelle Obama certainly had their share of questionable Christmas decor choices when they added monstrous replicas of their dogs Sunny and Bo into the mix.
Even the Clinton White House caved in to a pet theme, giving their cat Socks his own stocking. Whether that’s cute or hokey depends, we guess, on your affinity for animals and whether you consider them part of the family, and the holiday festivities.
In other words, every presidential family has its own unique ideas about holiday decor. Lest you start to judge, look inward first—or at least out toward that inflatable Santa in your own front yard.