The White House Christmas Party in Rare Photo Glimpses

The White House looked like a glowing ice sculpture.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, here is a small book’s worth of stories about what one glimpses in the White House when one’s lucky enough to be among the few thousands of guests invited to the President’s annual holiday party.

Along with me to experience this were friends who had never before been to the White House, let alone a party there – Tom Shephard and Ellen Mulligan. And a third friend, Rich Burns, suddenly emerged from the Green Room, making an even happier coincidence. Along the way, encountered again or for the first time were the White House chef Sam Kass, Huffington Post owner Arianna Huffington, and Susan Eisenhower who grew up in this mansion, granddaughter of Ike and Mamie, otherwise known as the President and Mrs. Eisenhower.

After passing muster through several security checkpoints, one enters the East Wing, its long corridor bright with lights and greenery, the famous movie theater serving as a coat check. Even freshening up is an experience of history here: the men’s is located in the Library and the women’s in the Vermeil Room, both on the ground floor (photos of these will be added later, a temporarily tech glitch the culprit). Ascending the stairs and following the din, one turns right – and right into the massive, merry East Room. Here are the buffet tables, groaning with perhaps the best roast beef ever tasted in America, along with root vegetables so well-scrubbed and trimmed anyone would dive for them. Of course, the worthiest table of all – two actually – flank the long buffet table. Here stand the desserts, including berry cobblers, chocolate cake, iced cookies and pies. All of these pale to the hero of the night….the fondant-frosted cocoanut-sprinkled Christmas Cake.

Passing into the Cross Hall, which transects the North Entrance, the sound of holiday songs rings out courtesy of the Marine Band. The notoriously intoxicating and legendary White House Eggnog fuels many a giddy gabfest and political debate in the three smaller staterooms – the Green Room, the Blue Room and the Red Room – and there’s more sustenance in the State Dining Room at the far west end. Here is also the annual creative vision of the pastry chef’s gingerbread house, often referencing a place of history or personal to the President.

Upon entering, all guests receive a card with a designated time, indicating when to return to the ground floor corridor and wait in line to shake hands with the President and Mrs. Obama. Bad timing led to a missed opportunity for that, at first. The greatest possible gift of the season was the second chance granted by an incredibly busy but thoughtful former staff member to Michelle Obama and current staff members. The brief exchange and some thoughts on that moment will be published when the photograph of that moment arrives. In the meanwhile, enjoy these images and your own Christmas, Hannukah, Saturnalia or long mid-winter’s rest.

The East Wing, welcoming entrance for the White House Christmas Party.

Herbert Hoover and Woodrow Wilson portraits in the East Wing.

The Jacqueline Kennedy East Garden.

The East Wing corridor.

The White House movie theater served as the coat check.

Lincoln flanked by Christmas Trees.

A display of White House Christmas cards past.

Tom Shephard with Bo the Dog made of cloth pieces, Calvin Coolidge and Grover Cleveland in the East Wing Entrance Corridor.

Carl Anthony at the Hillary Clinton portrait and gingerbread house,

Overview of the East Room.

The long East Room buffet table with the greatest beef and vegetables, Ellen Mulligan (in red) at right.

Theodore Roosevelt portait, in a corner of the East Room.

The Renaissance creche donated during the Kennedy era, the only sanctioned representation of Jesus in a federal government building to my knowledge, displayed for a half century without controversy.

The dessert table with a Christmas Cake covered in old-school sticky fondant icing.

The Long Cross Hall of the State floor.

The main entrance door of the White House.

A glimpse into the Blue Room and the large Christmas tree, from the North Entrance.

The Marine Band played merry tunes in the North Entrance Hallway.

Tom Shephard tom-foolering with Amerigo Vespucci bust in the Blue Room.

Wickedly intoxicating White House eggnog.

The Blue Room Minerva Clock.

Rich Burns enchanted by the Green Room.

Carl Anthony arguing political history in the Green Room.

Time to go. Passing a window looking out on the North Lawn.

The crowds shuffle out.

The Washington Monument in the distance, glimpsed while exiting.

 

To see additional photographs go to: More Photos from the White House Christmas Party (Part II).

 


Categories: Calvin Coolidge, First Families, Herbert Hoover, Presidential Foods

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22 replies »

  1. This was wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing the White House with us! I kept thinking of your quote of Mrs Harding – “It’s their White House – let me look in.” (please accept my apology is I did not get it correct). I think Mrs. Harding would be very pleased with the post!

    Much appreciated and have a happy holiday and New Year.

    Regards -

    David

  2. This was just fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. I feel like I was there. Although I have been on the public tour of the White House at Christmas (during the Clinton Administration), I have not had an opportunity to attend a private function there. This really completes the picture. Thanks for providing it to your followers and thanks for all of the interesting pieces you have provided this year. Merry Christmas and all the best in the coming New Year.

    • Appreciate that Jon. This website blog gets to be a bit time-consuming, though nothing is better than finding out people enjoy it or use the information. If I continue through the next year, it will mean having to figure out a way to monetize it or else abandon it until I do.

  4. Much better hospitality you got than I ever did in the Reagan era. You got an in with Michelle or something?

  5. A very nice party indeed. Good to “see” you again! A very Merry Christmas to you!

  6. I must say that the gingerbread house looked a little flat from previous renditions, like a façade for a Hollywood movie, but if edible very tasty I bet. That coconut fondant icing on the cake looked yummy! Thanks for sharing Carl, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  7. carlanthonyonline I have been to one party at the White House, but not like this one and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the photps and reading your description. Wish that I would be invited next year!

    MJS

    • Join the long list of potential invitees…..:) I do get as much pleasure bringing someone to the White House who has never before been as I do going myself and seeing what has changed, even slightly.

      • Hi Carl -
        If you are looking for a future date to the White House, I volunteer! I clean up well, and promise not to do anything untold – unless you count becoming tongue tied in front of the First Lady! Please let me know in advance so I can buy a new suit!
        :)

        David

        • Oh boy, the gates are broken…haha…I currently am keeping a very, very…very long list of fuming friends, waiting to share a privilege I may not ever have again for me.

          • I find it hard to believe that you will never go to The White House again! Could you share with us the first time you went, how you felt about being able to walk through those historic rooms, what it was like going “upstairs”, etc. Also, who was the first first lady you had a 1:1?

            As you know, I am a huge fan of Mrs Harding’s (thanks to your book) – where is her portrait located in the White House?

            Many thanks – best wishes for the holidays -

            David

            PS
            Did you meet BO?

          • One can’t presume that – it’s a rare privilege to be invited to the White House for anything, so many people don’t even get to visit on a tour, so who knows. Someday I will write about it in detail, but I appreciate the encouragement! Actually, the last time I had been there before this event was a really unique press gathering and lunch hosted by Laura Bush in the private Family Dining Room, and a tour through those rooms – the Yellow Oval Room, the President’s Study, the Lincoln Suite, the Queen’s Suite. Of course, we didn’t go into the living room or bedrooms, but like I said the luncheon was in the Private Dining Room and the meeting held in the Yellow Oval Room. And that’s when I finally got to see where Florence Harding was hung – in the bedroom of the Queen’s Suite on a wall facing west. And, sadly I didn’t get to glimpse let alone meet Bo the White House dog. But I had a pretty damned indepth conversation with Susan Eisenhower about Heidi the Weimaraner, part of her grandparents’s Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower’s White House family – and how Heidi, along with a weim owned by Grace Kelly, made the breed the most popular of the 50s.

          • I know that this blog must take a lot of time and effort, and I at least want you to know how much I appreciate it. The second set of photograph’s were great. Thank you for the detail about each one.

            I laughed when I read where Mrs. Harding is “hanging”. From your book I did not get the impression that she was not in the least snobby, however, I am glad she is in the Queen’s bedroom if she cannot be downstairs.

            I certainly hope you will continue to get invited to the White House – it is as close as I will ever get besides the general tour. It is a vacarious experience for me.

            As a huge fan of dogs and animals in general thanks for information about Mrs. Eisenhow’s dog – I remember reading JB West’s book about the “accident” she had and how the rug had to replaced.

            Again, I can thank you enough – I really enjoy your blgo. & don’t forget, if you ever need a date….

          • Well thank you for such full appreciation – obviously, I’m not getting paid doing this, so the satisfaction that it is entertaining, enlightening, educational or inspirational – hopefully all four at time – is great reward. Do spread the word if you can about The Yeager Fund (noted on the end of the recent posting of the three Xmas videos of Yeager) – it is a desperate situation with these very healthy yet calendar-old dogs who will never be adopted and I am trying to do what I can to help raise funds for them at http://www.friendsforpets.org. Meanwhile, I think my love of Weimaraners and Presidential history is ringing an inspiration for a story about the White House Weim Heidi herself (and Hogan, her hitherto unknown Weim male companion, revealed to me by Susan Eisenhower). Good holidays!

  8. How lovely to be taken along with you via these photos. I never did get in the white house but these pictures certainly make me a little Holiday Homesick for that town.

    And now I’m craving some of that beautiful cake!

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