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First lady Jill Biden unveils White House holiday decorations

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(WASHINGTON) — First lady Jill Biden unveiled the White House holiday decorations on Monday and announced her theme for the 2021 season as “Gifts from the Heart,” intended to honor those who have preserved through hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The things we hold sacred unite us and transcend distance, time, and even the constraints of a pandemic: faith, family, and friendship; a love of the arts, learning, and nature; gratitude, service, and community; unity and peace. These are the gifts that tie together the heart strings of our lives. These are the Gifts from the Heart,” the Bidens wrote in a letter explaining the theme for a commemorative White House Holiday Guide.

“As we celebrate our first holiday season in the White House, we are inspired by the Americans we have met across the country, time and again reminding us that our differences are precious and our similarities infinite,” the first lady and president said. “We wish you a happy, healthy, and joyous holiday season. As we look to a new year full of possibility, may gifts from the heart light our path forward.”

It took approximately 25 wreaths, 41 Christmas trees, 300 candles, 6,000 feet of ribbon, 10,000 ornaments and nearly 80,000-holiday lights to spruce up the White House for the holiday season. More than 100 volunteers worked on the decorations, according to the office of the first lady. While volunteers in the past have come from around the country, they were limited to surrounding areas this year due to the COVID-19 concerns.

Officials said the theme is represented in every room “with sort of an element of another theme, a sub-theme, if you will.”

Inside the Blue Room, which represents the “Gift of Peace and Unity,” stands the official White House Christmas tree. The room’s iconic chandelier was temporarily removed to display the 18.5-foot Fraser fir from Jefferson, North Carolina, which the first lady welcomed last week.

“Cascading down the tree, peace doves carry a shimmering banner embossed with the names of each state and territory of the United States, reminding us all of the importance of unity and national harmony,” the White House said.

Photos of the Trumps, Obamas, both Bushes, Reagans and Carters also hang on the tree, in addition to pictures of the Bidens, their kids, grandkids and dogs, Champ and Major.

Inside the State Dining Room, Christmas stockings hang above the fireplace mantel for each of the Biden grandchildren, marked with their names.

The Gingerbread White House, which the White House said was “inspired by our gratitude and admiration for our Nation’s frontline workers who kept our country running through the global pandemic, often at great risk to themselves and their families,” honors nurses, doctors, postal and grocery store workers, to name a few, and is complete with a gingerbread school teacher, illustrative of the first lady who is a longtime community college professor, smiling and standing next to a gingerbread schoolhouse.

Also on display is the Bidens’ Christmas card, signed “Joe” and “Jill,” which includes a remembrance for those who lost their lives this year to COVID-19.

A drawing of a candle on the back of the card includes the words, “In remembrance of all Americans who lost their lives to COVID-19 and in recognition of essential and frontline workers, first responders, and our service members and their families.”

As she did when she welcomed the White House Christmas tree last week, the first lady was joined again Monday afternoon by the National Guard family — the Harrells — to honor those spending the holiday season apart.

To that end, a Gold Star Tree honoring service members who have died in the line of duty, as well as their families who carry on their legacies, is on display at the East landing.

The first lady hosted a second-grade class from an elementary school in Maryland to help her unveil the decorations on Monday.

The kids sported masks and wrist bands to indicate they have been COVID-19 tested, and the first lady read her 2012 children’s book, “Don’t Forget, God Bless our Troops.” PBS Kids held a holiday puppet show to mark the festive occasion, and the children appeared starstruck at a performance by the Kraft Brothers.

She also thanked volunteers who decorated the home for the holidays in brief remarks.

“When the pandemic keeps us apart — like I know how tough this year has been really struggling to get by — or we feel like the weight of our lives is just too heavy to carry, these constants remind us that they feel us and lift our eyes to the future,” she said of the theme.

“For all of our differences, we are united by what really matters like points on a star we come together at the heart. That is what I wanted to reflect in our White House this year,” Biden added, blowing a kiss to the volunteers.

Earlier, inside the East Wing, the president’s own U.S. Marine Corps band played an assortment of holiday tunes amid an assortment of large, red packages.

The planning for holiday decorations started in late May, and the first lady was “very involved” in the process, according to her communications director Elizabeth Alexander.

Social secretary Carlos Elizondo said the White House didn’t have too many problems with the supply chain, “but there were some items that were backed up,” like some of the topiaries, he said.

With public tours on pause due to the pandemic, the White House said to stay tuned for interactive ways to view the decorations on social media and other platforms.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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