Biden opens his holidays with a Christmas tree and ‘giving friendship’
Washington Jill Biden kicked off the holiday season at the White House on Monday by cutting a branch from the official Blue Room tree and giving it — and the big bass — to her young grandson.
“Look how beautiful that is,” said the first lady of an 18 1/2-foot (5.6-meter) Fraser fir that was delivered by carriage to her doorstep on Pennsylvania Avenue by a Cladisdale horse named Ben Winston.
“It’s beautiful. It’s really cool,” she said.
The first lady later joined President Joe Biden on a visit to Army Fort Bragg in North Carolina to celebrate the “giving of friendship” with service members and military families.
Both events kicked off a holiday season at the White House expected to be even more festive this year, as public health officials encourage those vaccinated against COVID-19 to meet in person, rather than beg Americans to stay home, as they did. Do for past holidays.
The holiday tree was presented by the father-and-son team of Rusty and Beau Estes of Peak Farms in Jefferson, North Carolina—the three-time winner of the National Christmas Tree Association’s annual competition. The winner will present his or her official tree to the White House.
Sun Hunter Biden, his wife Melissa, and their young child Beau were among a large group of White House aides, guests and others who took in gale-force winds to watch the short ceremony marking the start of the administration’s first Christmas at the White House.
Fraser fir will be decorated in the coming days and displayed in the Blue Room, a tradition dating back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, after a chandelier was removed so it could be attached to the ceiling for safety. White House land manager Del Haney went to the farm in October to pick a tree. Peak Farms also supplied the official White House tree in 2008 and 2012.
The first lady said the White House Christmas decorations will be revealed the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Her office said Jill Biden was joined by a family of the Army National Guard in the capital to honor the National Guard’s role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was using her new role to help shine the spotlight on military families and garner support for them from across the country through an initiative called Unite Forces.
At Fort Bragg, the meal was held in a large hanger filled with pumpkin and pineapple centerpieces for about 250 service members and families. Jill Biden spoke first, emerging from behind a table to walk into the room, chatting with families about their late son Beau, who served in the Delaware National Guard, and how she understood how difficult it was to stay apart during the holidays. She spoke about how proud she was of the troops before introducing the president, who echoed her praise.
“You do a lot,” President Biden said, “and your family does a lot.” “You are the best army the world has ever seen… and I am so proud to be associated with you.”
After a quick prayer from the pastor, the Bidens walked behind the serving tables, donned gloves and aprons, and began distributing the meal to the waiting soldiers. Jill Biden shoveled mashed potatoes, stuffing president. Troops were handed chocolate chip cookies with the presidential seal, and the long table was filled with food including chocolate brownies.
And on Tuesday, Biden plans to take part in a local service project that will be announced before resuming his family’s tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. Biden halted the tradition last fall due to fears of COVID-19 and gathered over Thanksgiving dinner in Delaware with his wife, daughter and son-in-law only.
“Last Thanksgiving, for the first time, it was just the four of us,” Biden said earlier this month as he commented on the nation’s progress against the coronavirus.
Jaffe of Fort Bragg reports that writer Colin Long contributed to this report.
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