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Behind-the-Scenes Video: The White House Christmas 2010: Simple Gifts

The theme for the White House Christmas 2010 is Simple Gifts - a celebration of friends and family, hearth and home, and the simple things that bring joy at Christmas. Watch a behind-the-scenes video of the making of holidays at the White House.

Today, First Lady Michelle Obama will kick off the holiday season by welcoming military families who organize a local branch of the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots drive to the White House. This year’s theme is Simple Gifts - a celebration of friends and family, hearth and home, and the simple things that bring joy at Christmas.

Watch a behind-the-scenes video of the making of Simple Gifts:

Did you know 100,000 visitors are expected to tour the White House in December 2010? (View the tour book here) Check out Simple Gifts in numbers below, plus White House "Holiday How To's" to learn how to make your own magazine tree, gingerbread cookies and more.

Simple Gifts in Numbers

Number of Holiday Volunteers from each State:

  • Arizona: 2
  • California: 7
  • Colorado: 4
  • Connecticut: 1
  • District of Columbia: 5
  • Delaware: 1
  • Florida: 4
  • Georgia: 4
  • Illinois: 6
  • Kentucky: 2
  • Massachusetts: 1
  • Maryland: 7
  • Maine:  1
  • Michigan: 3
  • Minnesota: 8
  • Missouri: 2
  • North Carolina: 5
  • New Jersey: 1
  • New York: 3
  • Ohio: 2
  • Pennsylvania: 2
  • South Carolina: 1
  • Tennessee: 4
  • Texas: 5
  • Utah: 1
  • Virginia: 11
  • Vermont: 2
  • Washington: 1
  • Wisconsin: 1


  • The official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room is a Douglas-fir that stands 18 ½ feet high and is nearly 13 feet wide.
  • 19 Christmas Trees are inside the visitor tour route.
  • 2 live Christmas Trees outside of the North Portico.  Each tree stands 14 feet tall and they are the only live Christmas Trees at the White House. 
  • 1,000 handmade oak leaf roses in the East Visitor Entrance.  The roses were handmade out of dried, real oak leaves that came from the homes and neighborhood parks of volunteers.
  • 40,000 pipe cleaners were used to make Bo in Booksellers.
  • 75 pounds of recycled newspaper were used in the Green Room.
  • 6 magazines were used for the magazine trees in the Green Room – 1 magazine per tree.
  • 500 pomegranates, 400 yellow pear gourds, 450 artichokes, 350 purple dipper gourds, 350 green dipper gourds, 400 green pear gourds, 400 orange pear gourds were used to make the wreaths in the East Colonnade.
  • Approximately 100,000 visitors expected to tour the White House in December 2010. View the White House tour book.

Holiday How To’s

How to Decorate a Christmas card with Fruit and Vegetable Stamps

What you’ll need:

  • Assorted Vegetables (carrots, artichokes, eggplant, potatoes, radishes)
  • Assorted Fruits (oranges, pears, cherries, star fruit, apples, and pomegranates)
  • Cutting Board
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Eco/kid friendly food dye, made from different spices, vegetables and fruits
  • For a yellow color: Mix ½ cup hot water and 1 tablespoon turmeric powder.
  • For a bright red: Juice 1 pound beets; reduce until the desired color intensity.
  • For a pastel color: 2 tablespoons powdered milk and 1 tablespoon water until the consistency of a paste. Add reduced fruit or vegetable juice.
  • For a bright green: Blanch 1 pound spinach; shock in ice water.  Squeeze until dry.   Blend in a food processor. Drain spinach in a fine chinoise.
  • Kitchen sponge
  • Small Plates
  • Paper towels
  • Assorted Watercolor Brushes


  1. To prepare the fruit and vegetable stamps, cut the vegetables and fruits crosswise and lengthwise, to get different designs.  Let it air dry for at least a day for the moisture to dissipate.  Set aside.
  2. Pour different color dyes on separate plates.  You could use either a sponge, a paint brush or even the vegetables or fruits to paint the end of the stamps.
  3. Lay the card stock recycled paper on a flat surface.   With the “colored” stamp, apply a firm pressure onto the paper.  Make sure you wipe in between to have a more effective design.
  4. Continue stamping until you have finished your design.  Let air dry for a few minutes.

How to Make a Magazine Tree

What you’ll need:

  • Magazines
  • Gold paint
  • Glitter
  • Glitter adhesive


  1. Remove the front and back covers of the magazine.
  2. Take the right corner of the first page and fold it to the center, creasing the page.
  3. Take the bottom right corner and fold the page again to the center, creating another crease.
  4. Fold up the small triangle at the bottom of the page so that it is even with the base. 
  5. Continue folding each page until the entire magazine is folded.
  6. Glue or staple the front and back pages together to make the tree.
  7. Add paint and glitter as a finishing touch. 

How to Make a Newspaper Loop Wreath

What you’ll need:

  • 1-12 inch foam wreath form
  • Straight pins
  • Newspaper cut into 3 inch strips
  • Stapler
  • Staples
  • Gold paint
  • Glitter
  • Glitter adhesive
  • Decorative ribbon


  1. Fold the newspaper into loops and staple the bottom together.
  2. Create enough loops to cover the entire foam wreath form.
  3. Working side to side across the wreath, pin the loops to the wreath, covering the front and side surfaces.
  4. Continue pinning the loops in place until the entire wreath is covered.
  5. Add spray and glitter as a finishing touch.
  6. Add decorative ribbon for hanging the wreath.

Gingerbread Cookies

Makes 50 cookies, 4" each


  • 8 oz (2 sticks) butter, soft
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, large
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 7 cups All Purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp ginger ground
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon, ground
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Lemon zest from 1 lemon
  •  Orange zest from 1 orange


  1. Cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer for a minimum 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs 1x 1, then molasses.
  3. Put mixer on slow, sift spices, salt, baking powder and baking soda with flour then add these dry ingredients in three increments and scrape bowl each time.
  4. Add zests and mix until incorporated, but do not over mix.
  5. Remove dough from bowl and place on plastic wrap and spread to 1" thickness over wrap and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. Remove from refrigerator and roll out a small piece on a floured surface.  This dough is very wet, so add flour when necessary to prevent sticking and turn over often.
  7. Roll out to 1/8 to ¼ inch thickness for cookies.  Cut out Gingerbread Cookie People.
  8. Bake for 12 minutes at 350°F for cookies; 25 minutes or more for gingerbread house building.
  9. Decorate with Royal Icing.

Royal Icing


  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tsp lemon juice


Mix with paddle attachment for 5 minutes- if icing is too thick, add more lemon juice or egg white to desired consistency.