By Tim Gardner
With the arrival of a beautiful and massive Fraser fir Christmas tree from the North Carolina High Country, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the White House.
The Christmas holiday season officially kicked off at the White House in America’s capital city of Washington, District of Columbia, Monday at 1:00 p.m., when President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump received the 2018 White House Christmas tree from Avery County Christmas Tree Grower Larry Smith.
The tree arrived at the North Portico of the White House by jingle bell-adorned horse-drawn carriage, continuing a long-time, annual tradition that’s just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Trumps, both dressed festively in red, walked around the carriage, surveying the tree as a military band played Christmas carols, walking hand-in-hand as they inspected the carriage’s cargo.
Melania Trump ensured that those attending especially noticed her, as she wore a classy and festive, red plaid cape by one of her go-to brands– Michael Kors. The cape finished off the First Lady’s paired-down, flush look that was comprised of over-the-knee boots, jeans and a black crewneck sweater. Designed with wide lapels and embellished with double breasted buttons; the cape was a rich and structured attire to the ladies’ wintertime wardrobe staple.
President Trump made a special appearance at the event this year, although a president is not traditionally present when the White House Christmas tree is presented; only the First Lady. Dressed in a suit and tie, he even gave one of the Clydesdale horses leading the carriage a pat on the backside before he and the First Lady went back inside the White House.
The 19-and-a-half-foot tall; 800 pound tree will be decorated and displayed in the Blue Room of the White House. It was positioned inside the Blue Room shortly after the welcoming ceremony. There it has become the centerpiece of Christmas at the White House. Staff and volunteers will spend the weekend after Thanksgiving decorating the tree and the mansion for the Christmas holiday.
This year, Smith won a national tree contest hosted by the National Christmas Tree Association, whose members have presented the official White House Christmas Tree for display in the Blue Room since 1966. The association hosts a national tree contest every year, and growers, industry experts and consumers vote to choose the Real Christmas Tree grower who will provide the official White House Christmas Tree. Growers must first win their local competitions in order to qualify for the national contest.
In September, the White House’s chief usher Timothy Harleth and superintendent of grounds, Dale Haney, traveled to Avery County to select a Fraser Fir from the “appointed field” on Smith’s Mountain Top Fraser Fir Farm, about two miles from downtown Newland.
Smith cut down the tree Wednesday, November 14 and it was loaded and taken by tractor-and-trailer from Newland to the White House, making several stops along the way.
“I feel as though I have finally won the Super Bowl. It’s a great honor to represent the Christmas tree industry by providing the Official White House Christmas Tree in 2018,” Smith said in a statement.
Virginia Foxx, U.S. Representative for North Carolina’s 5th congressional district, attended the White House Christmas tree presentation ceremony and offered the following remarks: “It was a true pleasure for me to join Mr. Smith, his family and friends for the presentation of this year’s White House Christmas Tree to the first family. The Fifth District is full of talented tree farmers and, as a former tree farmer myself, I was especially proud to share the honor of having the tree selected from Avery County where I grew up.”
The tradition of The White House Christmas tree dates back to 1889, when President Benjamin Harrison placed the first tree in the Yellow Room, decorated with candles and toys for his grandchildren, according to the White House Historical Association. The tree is believed to have made its debut in the Blue Room during the President William Howard Taft administration in 1912.
While Monday’s tree arrival marks the formal kickoff to the White House’s 2018 Christmas festivities, broader preparations have been long underway. The First Lady posted a photo from a planning session in July, hinting that gold ornaments and red berries are in store for this year’s décor.
The season’s festivities will continue Tuesday, when the President carries out another annual national tradition, pardoning the Thanksgiving turkey, and into December, when the Trumps are expected to host a packed schedule of holiday parties.