White House Christmas tree arrives, continuing tradition amid Covid-19 and election disputes
(CNN) -- First lady Melania Trump welcomed the 2020 White House Christmas tree Monday afternoon, continuing the long-held tradition even as the coronavirus pandemic rages on and as President Donald Trump's longshot election challenges remain unsettled.
This year's tree is an 18 and 1/2 foot tall Fraser fir and is from Dan and Bryan Trees, owned by Dan and Anne Taylor, in West Virginia.
A military band played a festive medley of "O Christmas Tree," "O Come, All Ye Faithful," and "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," as a maskless first lady emerged from the White House to greet a horse-drawn carriage with the tree on the North Portico. Unlike past years' arrivals, the carriage's two coachmen and horse handler were masked.
The first lady posed for photographs with the tree farmers, who initially wore masks but removed them to pose for additional photos, before offering a brief "Merry Christmas" greeting to the press and returning inside. The tree will ultimately to be displayed in the Blue Room.
White House Christmas tree selection is typically a competitive process overseen by the National Christmas Tree Association, which has provided the official tree since 1966.
But in a statement, the NCTA said that there was no formal selection event this year.
"The Taylors have supplied Christmas trees to decorate the White House for a number of years, except of course, the Blue Room tree which comes from NCTA's Grand Champion Grower," the NCTA noted in a statement.
The arrival of the Christmas tree usually marks the kickoff of the White House's annual holiday festivities. And another White House holiday tradition, the President's turkey pardon, is still scheduled to take place this week.
At least one lucky fowl will be chosen to be pardoned by Trump in the White House Rose Garden on Tuesday. Earlier Monday, National Turkey Federation chairman Ron Kardel announced during a press conference in Washington that this year's national Thanksgiving turkeys are named Corn and Cob. The turkeys hail from Iowa and have been resting in the luxe Washington accommodations at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel over the weekend, per tradition.
Public health experts have discouraged large, in-person events this fall and winter, warning that they could serve as hotbeds for spreading the coronavirus. And Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who serves on the White House coronavirus task force, specifically warned Monday that all Americans -- even at the White House -- should follow US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and avoid large gatherings during what he called a "dire point" in the pandemic.
But despite public health experts describing previous functions at the White House as superspreader events, many of this year's public and private White House holiday events are scheduled to still take place -- albeit in a smaller fashion.
"The People's House will celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah while providing the safest environment possible. This includes smaller guest lists, masks will be required and available, social distancing encouraged while on the White House grounds, and hand sanitizer stations throughout the State Floor," East Wing chief of staff Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
She continued, "Guests will enjoy food individually plated by chefs at plexiglass-protected food stations. All passed beverages will be covered. All service staff will wear masks and gloves to comply with food safety guidelines. Attending the parties will be a very personal choice. It is a longstanding tradition for people to visit and enjoy the cheer and iconic decor of the annual White House Christmas celebrations."
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