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Anita McBride
Anita McBride
Mrs. Bush's Chief of Staff

December 16, 2008

Anita McBride

Happy holidays and thank you for joining me today for Ask the White House. I'm Anita McBride and I serve as Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Mrs. Bush. Everyone at the White House is busy sprinting to the finish! But we are also taking time to enjoy and share the beauty of the White House during the holiday season. Last evening, the President and Mrs. Bush celebrated Hanukkah at the White House, a tradition they began in 2001. Marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, they were delighted that the Truman Library loaned the menorah presented to President Harry S. Truman in 1951 as a symbol of friendship by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. The President and Mrs. Bush were especially honored to have the grandsons of these two great men – Clifton Truman Daniel and Yariv Ben-Eliezer – light the menorah together.

This is the 16th Christmas I have enjoyed as a member of the White House staff in three administrations. I loved them all but Mrs. Bush's holiday theme this year may be the one I will remember the most. "A Red, White and Blue Christmas" is a fitting tribute to our patriotic spirit, especially during an election and inauguration year. I'm happy to answer your questions.

John, from Canada writes:
Hi,I would like to ask a question. How many ornaments are usually on the White House Christmas Tree and how long did it take to put it up? Thanks, John

Anita McBride
That is a good question, John. The number of ornaments varies from year to year, but the 2008 White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room is decorated with over 375 original ornaments from all across the United States. Mrs. Bush invited each Member of Congress to select an artist to decorate a ball for the tree. Every state is represented. You may view the ornaments here.

A wonderful and efficient team of over 90 volunteers from around the country decked the White House halls over several days following Thanksgiving. The official White House Christmas Tree was delivered on Sunday, November 30 and received by Mrs. Bush. You can see the photographs here. The chandelier in the Blue Room was removed to make room for the 18 ½ feet tall Fraser fir from North Carolina.

Jordin, from Carlisle PA writes:
What is your favorite Christmas Song?

Anita McBride
Thank you for that question. I love all Christmas music but my favorite Christmas song is O Holy Night.

Tom, from Chicago writes:
I really love BarneyCam. How do you come up with new ideas every year?

Anita McBride
That’s a fantastic question. It gives me an opportunity to tell everyone that one of the longest-serving members of President Bush’s White House staff – Jeanie Mamo, the Director of Media Affairs – works very hard on this. She has great support from several members of the Communications team and together they come up with terrific and creative ideas each year. The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing were a special event for the President and Mrs. Bush so tying the Games into BarneyCam was a fun and perfect match. We were grateful to have so many athletes from Team USA and the USA Ryder Cup Team participate to help make the last BarneyCam one to remember. To Barney and Miss Beazley, we all say: Take a bow and thank you for giving us some cherished memories of holidays at the White House.

Kara, from CA writes:
What is your favorite part of the decorations this year?

Anita McBride
That’s a tough question, Kara. The ornaments on the White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room are special, and I love that hometowns and regions all over our great country are represented.

A traditional favorite of mine is the crèche. Maybe that’s because I am an Italian American and this crèche was made in Italy in the 18th century. It has been displayed in the East Room every holiday season since 1967.

Sammy, from Hocking Hills writes:
How did Mrs. Bush decide what kind of decorations she wanted?

Anita McBride
Mrs. Bush has received many letters and comments over the years suggesting a patriotic theme for the holiday decorations. Mrs. Bush selected “A Red, White and Blue Christmas” as the theme to celebrate our great country and because it’s an election year.

In the Green Room and in the East Colonnade, there are silver eagles that adorn garland or hold wreaths. In the State Dining Room, flutes and drums fashioned after the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps are mingled with red, white and blue bunting. There are also Fife and Drum Corps marzipan figurines next to the White House Gingerbread House, which is covered in white chocolate this year.

Mrs. Bush also wanted to reuse some of the decorations from past holidays. There were lots of red balls from previous years that fit perfectly into this year’s theme. And the six miniature reproductions of Presidential Homes (such as Monticello and Mount Vernon) were first displayed in 2001 as part of the “Home for the Holidays” theme. Mrs. Bush said herself that “just like everyone does; [she] goes to their attic and comes up with their old decorations.”

Jared, from Odessa TX writes:
How many Christmas trees are there in the White House?

Anita McBride
Thank you for your question, Jared. Twenty-seven trees from North Carolina were used this year to decorate the White House, from the East Wing to the West Wing. The official White House Christmas Tree is an 18 ½-foot tall Fraser fir presented to Mrs. Bush by Jessie Davis and Russell Estes of River Ridge Tree Farms in Crumpler, North Carolina.

Anita McBride

Thank you everyone for your wonderful questions. I encourage you to visit the 2008 White House Holiday web site to learn more about how the holidays are celebrated at the White House, watch BarneyCam, and view the ornaments on the White House Christmas Tree.

It has been an honor to serve the President and Mrs. Bush and each day I appreciate the privilege of working here. But it is no doubt a special treat to come to work at the White House when it is so beautifully decorated for the holidays. I wish you and your family a healthy and happy holiday season and a peaceful New Year.