(WASHINGTON) -- It took 54 live Christmas trees, 175 pounds of gingerbread, and 85 volunteers from across the country to pull it off, but the holidays have finally arrived at the White House.
First lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the White House Wednesday for the big reveal and to show off this year’s theme of “Joy to All.”
“It celebrates the many joys of the holiday seasons: the joy of giving and service to others; the joy of sharing our blessings with one another; and, of course, the joy of welcoming our friends and families as guests into our homes over these next several weeks,” she told the crowd gathered in the East Room.
The first lady praised the service and sacrifice of the families gathered at the White House Wednesday, which included Gold Star and Blue Star parents, spouses and children. “This is one big, huge thank you,” she said. “I have said this many times before and I will say it again, because I can't say it enough -- our military families truly represent the very best that this country has to offer. And I've seen it up close. You all do so much for this country, and you do it with such amazing poise and grace.”
Several of the decorations honor the military, including red, white and blue wreaths and special ornaments decorated by families of fallen soldiers. The decor also includes a nod to holidays past, with four trees trimmed with ornaments paying tribute to the legacies of former first ladies. “They just give you a sense of what Christmas felt like in other administrations with other families and first ladies,” Mrs. Obama said.
More than 90,000 visitors will tour the decorations at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this holiday season, which now boasts a huge 18-foot-6-inch Fraser fir in the Blue Room and a giant topiary of the Obama family dog Bo made out of 20,000 black and white pom-poms.
Other highlights include the annual White House gingerbread house, which weighs in at an impressive 300 pounds. “It even includes chandeliers that light up,” the first lady bragged. “It glows. Like Rudolph’s nose, right.”
Fun facts about this year’s decorations:
- The official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room is an 18-foot-6-inch Fraser fir from the Estes Family’s Peak Farms in Jefferson, North Carolina, the winning tree farm of the National Christmas Tree Association’s National Christmas Tree Contest.
- More than 175 pounds of gingerbread and modified gingerbread make up the White House Gingerbread House. With over 50 pounds of chocolate, the house weighs about 300 pounds. The combination of wheat, rye, and white-flour gingerbread mimics the color of the sandstone house prior to 1798, when the house was first painted white.
- There are more than 40 “Bo-flake” ornaments throughout the White House.
- The snowflakes at the East Entrance are made out of lightweight laminate board. Volunteers clipped and wired small boxwood bundles, dipped them in floor wax to preserve the freshness, and hot glued them to the frame. The project took approximately 25 volunteers a total of 100 hours to make.
- The berry, pinecone, and leaf designs of the East Entrance column covers took a team of 40+ volunteers over two months to make. The column covers were constructed over a plywood base using 60,000 berries, 15,000 gold pinecone scales, and 15,000 pieces of lemon leaf. The pattern forms a three-dimensional geometric motif of “illusion cubes.”
- The giant Bo topiary in Booksellers is made out of 18,000 one-inch black pom-poms and 2,000 white pom-poms. The pom-poms were strung on a single strand of yarn and then applied in an overlapping technique to resemble Bo’s fur. The Bo topiary took one volunteer approximately 85 hours to complete.
- The colorful iron arches in the Lower Cross Hall are covered with over 6,000 repurposed White House ornaments. The arches took a team of 12 volunteers a total of 350 hours to make.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio