By Darlene Superville and Alexandra Jaffe | Associated Press
WASHINGTON – Jill Biden opened the White House holiday season on Monday by breaking a twig of the official Blue Room tree and giving it – and a big smoke – to her toddler.
“Look how beautiful this is,” said the first lady of the 18 1/2-foot Fraser spruce that was delivered by cart to her Pennsylvania Avenue doorstep by Clydesdale horses named Ben and Winston.
“It’s beautiful. It’s really amazing,” she said.
The first lady later joined President Joe Biden for a visit to the Army’s Fort Bragg in North Carolina to celebrate “friendsgiving” with servicemen and military families.
The two events sparked a White House holiday season that is expected to be much more festive this year, with public health officials urging those vaccinated against COVID-19 to meet in person, instead of asking Americans to stay at home, as they have done for previous vacations.
The holiday tree was presented by the father-and-son team of Rusty and Beau Estes of Peak Farms in Jefferson, North Carolina – a three-time winner of the National Christmas Tree Association’s annual competition. The winner will present his official tree to the White House.
The son Hunter Biden, his wife, Melissa, and their young child, Beau, were among a significant group of White House helpers, guests and others who braved sharp winds to see the brief ceremony marking the start of the administration’s first Christmas. in the White House.
The phrasing spruce will be decorated in the coming days and displayed in the Blue Room, a tradition that goes back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, after a chandelier has been removed so that it can be tethered to the ceiling for safety. White House Inspector Dale Haney went to the yard in October to pick out a tree. Peak Farms also delivered the official White House tree in 2008 and 2012.
The White House Christmas decorations will be unveiled the Monday after Thanksgiving, the first lady said.
Jill Biden was joined by a DC Army National Guard family to honor the National Guard’s role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, her office said. She has used her new role to help highlight and rally support for military families from across the country through an initiative called the Joining Forces.
In Fort Bragg, the meal was held in a large hanger filled with pumpkin and pine cones for about 250 service members and families. Jill Biden spoke first, stepped out behind a table to walk around the room, and talked to families about their late son, Beau, who served in the Delaware National Guard, and how she understood how difficult it was to be away on vacation . She talked about how proud she was of the troops before presenting the president, who reiterated her praise.
“You do so much, your families do so much,” President Biden said. “You’re the finest military the world has ever seen … and I’m so damn proud to be associated with you.”
After a quick prayer from the pastor, Bidens went behind the serving tables, put on gloves and aprons, and began handing out the meal to waiting troops. Jill Biden scooped mashed potatoes, the president stuffed. The troops were handed chocolate cakes with the president’s seal, and the long table was filled with food, including chocolate cakes.
On Tuesday, Bidens plans to participate in a local service project to be announced before resuming their family tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket. Biden put the tradition on hold last fall due to COVID-19 concerns and hunked down over Thanksgiving dinner in Delaware with only his wife, their daughter and their son-in-law.
“Last Thanksgiving, for the first time, it was just the four of us,” Biden said earlier this month, commenting on the nation’s progress toward coronavirus.
Jaffe reported from Fort Bragg, NC Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.