Holidays at the White House

The Nutcracker

For over one hundred years, "The Nutcracker" ballet has been a seasonal favorite, delighting children and grown-ups alike, and filling many a small child's head with dreams of princes and princesses, beautiful fairies and brave soldiers.

This year, as a very personal tribute to the joy and family spirit of the holiday season, this First Family has chosen to decorate the White House with magical scenes from "The Nutcracker" ballet.

The First Family invited three groups of artisans, from across America, to create ornaments for the White House trees: regional and professional ballet companies, wood-working artists, and members of the American Needlepoint Guild and the Embroiderers Guild of America.

Each ornament, inspired by personal recollections of "The Nutcracker" ballet, presents a unique vision of this time-honored classic.

And as always, each ornament is a charming example of the artistry and imagination found in every part of our country.
[Toy soldier] [Toy soldier] [Toy soldier]

[Wall of Stockings]

Stockings were stitched by members of
the American Needlepoint Guild and the
Embroiderers Guild of America.
The East Entrance

Upon entering the White House through the EAST WING, you see the first of three retrospective holiday trees; it stands in the East Garden Room, and is decorated with angel ornaments created by American craftsmen for the 1993 Holidays at the White House.

At the end of the EAST COLONNADE, where oversized wreaths hang in each window, you come to the East Foyer, and our second special tree. This 1994 Holiday tree is trimmed with ornaments representing the "Twelve Days of Christmas" as interpreted by art and design school students, as well as the National Society of Tole and Decorative Painters.

The White House Library is the site of the tree which honors Holiday 1995. It is decorated with ornaments from architects and architecture students that reflect the theme, "Twas the Night Before Christmas." Needlepoint stockings stitched by members of the American Needlepoint Guild and the Embroiderers Guild of America complete the tree.

Also in the East Foyer, is the exhibit of White House Christmas cards dating back to the Eisenhower Administration. Showcased here, the original painting, "The White House, The Green Room," by Thomas McKnight, from which the official 1996 card was created.
[Toy soldier] [Toy soldier] [Toy soldier]

[East Room] The East Room

A focal point of the elegant EAST ROOM is the traditional White House creche. It was made in Naples, Italy in the late 18th century. Its 47 carved wood and terra cotta figures epitomize the exquisite artistry of old world craftsmanship. The creche was a gift to the White House from Mrs. Charles Engelhard, Jr. of Far Hills, New Jersey, and has been displayed each year since 1967 as part of the Holiday celebrations.
Six towering trees -- one on either side of the creche, one at each window, and two flanking the entrance -- add greenery and majesty to the East Room. The trees are beribboned in gold and burgundy, while mixed greens and hurricane candles grace the mantels of each fireplace. Festive holiday music, provided by groups from across the country, wafts through the air.

[Parlor] The Parlors

The GREEN ROOM, inspiration for the 1996 White House Christmas card, is used for small teas and receptions. Throughout the year, the renowned portrait of Benjamin Franklin by David Martin, which hangs above the fireplace, is a highlight of this charming room. During the holidays, the mantel decoration becomes a focal point, and this year the mantels in both the Green Room and Red Room were designed and decorated under the direction of the accomplished holiday artist, Christopher Radko, with assistance from a number of American artists and craftsmen, including the costume department of the New York City Ballet.

The Green Room mantel was inspired by the winter beauty of the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. It glistens with shades of antique pink and wedgwood blue, and sparkles with the spirit of snowflakes, sprites and fairies.

The Official White House Tree, an 18'6" Colorado Blue Spruce from the Scheetz Tree Farm in Coshocton, Ohio, resides in the BLUE ROOM. It was presented to the President and Mrs. Clinton by Kenny and Joann Scheetz and family who won the honor by being named the 1996 National Grand Champion Growers by the National Christmas Tree Association.

The decorations on the tree come from three distinct and talented groups: regional and professional ballet companies contributed ornaments which represented their own performances of "The Nutcracker" ballet, wood craft artisans created ornaments depicting scenes or characters from the ballet, and members of the American Needlepoint Guild and the Embroiderers Guild of America stitched holiday stockings to hang on the tree. The green velvet handmade tree skirt was designed by individuals from each of the 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia, in celebration of the Clinton family's first holiday at the White House.

In the RED ROOM, which is furnished in classic American Empire style, is the second of the Christopher Radko mantelpieces, its inspiration was the opening act of "The Nutcracker," in which the children celebrate around the Christmas tree. Along with characters from the ballet, look for figures from American History, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The centerpiece of this holiday confection is a candy castle covered with sweets.
[Toy soldiers]
[Dancers] [Dancers] [Dancers]

[Wooden mouse]
The State Dining Room and Gingerbread House

Heads of state, dignitaries, and special guests are entertained in the beautiful and spacious STATE DINING ROOM, where George P. Healy's famous portrait of Abraham Lincoln hangs. Mixed greenery and ribbons on the mantel and sconces give the room a festive air.

Of course, the holiday star of the State Dining Room is the traditional Gingerbread House, created each year by the White House Pastry Chefs. In honor of "The Nutcracker," this year's edible edifice is modeled after a Victorian-era home. Outside, two nutcracker soldiers stand guard, and in the warm and cozy parlor, the party scene from the ballet is recreated.

[Grand Foyer] The Grand Foyer

As you enter the GRAND FOYER, look up to see the needlepoint "kissing ball" designed and made by master needlepoint artist, Hyla Hurley of Washington, D.C.. Mrs. Hurley chose to portray the children's party, which is the same scene featured in the Gingerbread House in the State Dining Room.

The four large trees found in the Grand Foyer are decorated with gold ribbon, gold ribbon roses and red glass ornaments.
[Toy soldier] [Toy soldier] [Toy solldier]

Art Direction & Design by H. Kemper Johnson
Text by Susan A. Cooper
Photography by James Wojcik
Illustration by James Noel Smith
The West Wing

A distinctive, handcast menorah adds grace and beauty to the WEST WING. It was loaned to the White House by the artist, Zachary Oxman from Hillsboro, Virginia, and represents the celebration of family with dancing figurines. Mr. Oxman is one of the artists represented in the White House Collection of American Crafts.