'Tis the season: First lady Jill Biden receives official White House Christmas tree
By Betsy Klein, CNN
(CNN) -- It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the nation's capital.
First lady Jill Biden kicked off the evergreen annual process of decking the White House halls on Monday afternoon when she received the official 2021 White House Christmas tree.
The 18-and-a-half-foot Fraser fir hails from Peak Farms of Jefferson, North Carolina, and was presented by Rusty and Beau Estes, the National Christmas Tree Association's 2021 grand champion growers -- a title they also received during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Dale Haney, the White House's superintendent of grounds, and James Pinkerton, the White House garden supervisor, traveled to Peak Farms earlier this year to personally select the tree from the national Christmas tree contest winners.
The tree arrived at the North Portico via jingle bell-bedecked horse and carriage and was inspected by the first lady -- a merry tradition since 1966, and it will be placed in the oval-shaped Blue Room of the White House and decorated with a theme that will be unveiled after the Thanksgiving holiday.
"Every year, the room's chandelier is removed to accommodate the Christmas tree's full height," the office of the first lady noted in a statement.
The arrival of the Christmas tree usually marks the kickoff of the White House's annual holiday festivities, with a flurry of volunteers hauling out the holly and working through the Thanksgiving holiday to spruce up the people's house into a winter wonderland. That process is traditionally overseen by the East Wing.
In an update to the annual tradition and a nod to the challenges of the past year, Biden was joined by Captain Maryanne Harrell, her husband Levi, and children Levi II, Marcus, and Elliana, a DC Army National Guard family, to "honor the role of the National Guard in response to the Covid-19 pandemic" as well as to honor "all the National Guard families who are activated and spending these holidays apart," according to her office.
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, per the White House Historical Association. The tree is believed to have made its debut in the Blue Room during the Taft administration in 1912. And in 1961, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy selected a theme for the Blue Room tree, a tradition that continues today.
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