Holidays 2012

The Administration

“This year’s theme is ‘Joy to All.’ It celebrates the many joys of the holiday seasons: the joy of giving and service to others; the joy of sharing our blessings with one another; and, of course, the joy of welcoming our friends and families as guests into our homes over these next several weeks.”

-First Lady Michelle Obama, November 28, 2012

Joy To All

This year's decorations also pay tribute to our Armed Forces and their families. The walls of the East Landing are adorned with wreaths crafted with red, white, and blue yarn, and a Christmas tree decorated with festive, patriotic ornaments completes the space. The official White House Christmas tree, which stands tall in the center of the Blue Room, honors the courageous service of the troops, veterans, and military families who serveour country with pride. The 18-foot-6- inch Fraser Fir from Jefferson, North Carolina is trimmed with ornaments decorated by military children living on U.S. Military Bases all over the world, and these one-of-a-kind ornaments honor their parents’ commitment to service.

The First Lady Reads "Twas the Night Before Christmas"

Paying a visit to the young patients at the Children's National Medical Center is a holiday tradition that dates back to the 1950s, when Bess Truman was First Lady. When First Lady Michelle Obama stopped by earlier this month with Bo, she took some time to read the holiday classic.

Hanukkah at the White House

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed friends and leaders from the Jewish community to celebrate the sixth night of Hanukkah.

Behind the Scenes: Time Lapse

Go behind the scenes as eighty-five volunteers from across the country decorate the White House for the holidays.

Bo Ho Ho

Bo makes a final inspection of the 2012 White House Christmas decorations before we open the doors to an expected 90,000 visitors who will be coming to the People’s House this holiday season.

The 2012 Gingerbread White House

The 2012 holiday décor at the White House features a 300 pound representation of the President's' house made entirely from edible treats. Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and his talented team spent months planning, baking, building and decorating the structure. The time lapse video lets you see how Chef Yosses and his team put the whole project together.

See Highlights of the 2012 White House Holiday Décor

Tributes to Our Heroes


The very first tree visitors see as they enter the White House this holiday season honors our men and women in uniform for the extraordinary sacrifices they and their families have made. The tree in the East Landing is decorated with special Gold Star ornaments bearing the names of some of America’s greatest heroes – those who gave their lives for our country. And any Gold Star family who visits the White House is invited to decorate their own ornament to honor their loved one.

All visitors will have the opportunity to fill out Operation Honor Cards, pledging to serve their community in honor of ourmilitary families, service members, and veterans.

And in the Blue Room, a very special “Joining Forces” tree is covered with hand-decorated ornaments made by military children living on U.S. bases around the world as a way to honor their parents’ commitment to serve.

Pledge Your Service (PDF)  |  Download the Joining Forces Ornament (PDF)

Download the Holiday Tour Book and Bo Bookmark


The 2012 White House Holiday Tour Book is made even more special by a series of illustrations that were created by the students from Washington D.C.'s Duke Ellington School for the Arts. The 16 page booklet also features background on the decorations in each of the rooms, plus a letter from President and Mrs. Obama.

One of the first sights to greet visitors to the White House this holiday season is a giant representation of Bo Obama made from 18,000 black pompoms. We've prepared a special activity for all of the young people who visit : They’ll receive a bookmark with a checklist that instructs them to find the Bo ornament in eight rooms of the White House. Take a look for yourself!

2012 Holiday Tour Book2012 Holiday Book Mark

Download the Tour Book (PDF)  |  Download the Book Mark (PDF)

Recreate White House Traditions at Your House

Photos: First Lady Tribute Ornaments

The custom of selecting an official holiday theme began in the 1960s, when First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy created a Nutcracker-themed Christmas for her daughter, Caroline. This year we honor that tradition and pay tribute to past White House holidays with four trees in the Grand Foyer. Each tree is trimmed with a collection of iconic ornaments that best represent the holiday legacies of former First Ladies dating back more than 50 years to Mrs. Kennedy. In total, there are 54 trees throughout the White House that have been decorated to reflect this year's holiday theme.

  • First Lady Tribute Card

    To celebrate and pay tribute to past White House holidays and honor the former First Ladies, four unique and decorated trees stand in the Grand Foyer.

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  • Tribute to Jacqueline Kennedy

    Jacqueline Kennedy’s 1961 theme “The Nutcracker” portrayed her love for ballet, classical music and culture. Mini wrapped presents were incorporated.

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  • Tribute to Lady Bird Johnson

    Lady Bird Johnson celebrated Christmas with an “Early Americana” theme. The trees were decorated with gingerbread ornaments and toy soldiers.

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  • Tribute to Pat Nixon

    Pat Nixon’s first theme was “State Flower Balls” in 1969. This Illinois State Flower Ball is a select piece from the original collection.

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  • Tribute to Betty Ford

    Betty Ford’s family traditions were based on creativity. This fabric bow represents a typical “Homespun Christmas.”

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  • Tribute to Rosalynn Carter

    Rosalynn Carter enjoyed “Classic American Christmas” in 1977, using all natural materials as wood, pinecones, and even peanuts.

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  • Tribute to Nancy Reagan

    Nancy Reagan celebrated an “Old Fashion Christmas” at the White House. She used glitzy shiny ornaments and angels to decorate the trees.

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  • Tribute to Barbara Bush

    Barbara Bush used tiny books and popular characters from children’s books to decorate trees in 1989, reflecting her favorite cause of literacy.

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  • Tribute to Hillary Clinton

    Hillary Clinton embraced a “Winter Wonderland” theme in 1998, creating a contemporary twist to decorate the White House.

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  • Tribute to Laura Bush

    Laura Bush chose the patriotic theme “Red, White and Blue Christmas” in 2008. Decorations included flags, oversized nutcrackers, and drums.

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  • Tribute to Michelle Obama

    Michelle Obama decorated the Blue Room tree in 2011 in honor of the military with medals and badges decorated on ornaments.

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Photos: Holidays at the White House Through the Years

  • Obama
  • G. W. Bush
  • Clinton
  • Bush
  • Reagan
  • Carter
  • Ford
  • Nixon
  • Johnson
  • Kennedy
  • First Lady Michelle Obama poses with the 2014 White House Christmas ornament

    First Lady Michelle Obama poses with the 2014 White House Christmas ornament, Dec. 3, 2014. (Official WH Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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  • First Lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, and the family dog Bo, receives the official White House Christmas tree

    The First Lady with daughters, and Bo, receive the official White House Christmas tree, Nov. 23, 2012.

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  • First Family Reacts To Tree Lighting

    President Obama and his family react as they push the button to light the National Christmas Tree during a ceremony on the Ellipse, Dec. 9, 2010.

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  • First Lady Delivers Toys Donated To Toys For Tots

    The First Lady delivers toys donated by the WH Executive Office staff to the Marine Corps Base Quantico Toys for Tots Campaign, Dec. 16, 2009.

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  • The President And First Lady Greet The Strings For Joy

    President Obama and the First Lady greet members of the Strings For Joy ensemble during a holiday party at the White House, Dec. 14, 2009.

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  • The President And First Lady In Hanukkah Candle Ceremony

    President Obama and the First Lady take part in the Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony in the East Room, Dec. 2, 2010.

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  • Young Visitor Tastes Her Decorated Cookie

    The First Lady and WH Pastry Chef Bill Yosses laugh as a young visitor tastes her decorated cookie during a holiday craft demonstration, Dec. 1, 2010.

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  • Assistant Pastry Chef Builds Gingerbread House

    White House Assistant Pastry Chef Susie Morrison constructs the White House gingerbread house in the China Room of the White House, Nov. 29, 2010.

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  • Christmas Bo 2010 decor

    Bo, the Obama family dog, sits by a larger-than-life holiday decoration of himself in the East Garden Room of the White House, Nov. 30, 2010.

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  • Christmas First Family: Obamas 2010 in front of Tree

    President Obama and the First Lady pose in front of the Official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room, Dec. 5, 2010.

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  • Christmas First Family: Obama 2010

    President Obama and the First Lady descend the Grand Staircase to a holiday reception on the State Floor, Dec. 10, 2010.

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  • Christmas First Family: Obama coming downstairs 2009

    President Obama and the First Lady descend the Grand Staircase of White House to attend a holiday party, Dec. 13, 2009.

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  • Christmas First Family- Obamas Hannukah

    President Obama and the First Lady host a Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 16, 2009.

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  • Christmas First Family: Obama 2009 tree

    President Obama and the First Lady pose for a formal portrait in front of the official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room, Dec. 6, 2009.

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The Obama Holidays

With themes like, "Joy to All", "Shine, Give, Share" and "Simple Gifts", the holiday customs celebrated by the Obama family in the White House have centered around reflecting on our many blessings as Americans, rejoicing in the pleasure of spending time with family and friends, and renewing commitments to one another and to the causes that we believe in. One of the First Lady's most cherished traditions are the trees that honor the service of our armed forces, which have pride of place in the East Landing and the Blue Room each year. And visitors during the holiday season have been enchanted by the representations of the First Dog, Bo Obama, who has been recreated using pipe cleaners, trash bags, buttons, pompoms and even chocolate.

The White House would like to thank the White House Historical Association, the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, the Gerald R. Ford Library, the Rockefeller Folk Art Museum at Colonial Williamsburg, the DC Public Library, the Jimmy Carter Library, the Ronald Reagan Library, the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, George W. Bush Presidential Library and Coleen Christian Burke, author of "Christmas with the First Ladies" for photographs and research support.

Life at the White House