First lady Jill Biden carried on the White House’s full embrace of the holiday season on Monday, welcoming this year’s Christmas tree with military families.
It came just hours after President Joe Biden – who celebrated his 81st birthday on Monday – issued a presidential pardon to “Liberty” and “Bell,” fulfilling the annual holiday tradition and saving the two Minnesota turkeys from the Thanksgiving table.
The first lady emerged from the White House on Monday afternoon followed by more than a dozen children from military families as a military band filled the driveway with Christmas songs. Biden led the kids to the still tied-up tree, displayed in a green wagon with red accents tethered to two festively-adorned Clydesdale horses.
“So soft,” Dr. Biden exclaimed as she pet one of the horses and called the kids over to do the same.
This year’s tree, an 18 1/2 foot fraser fir, hails from Fleetwood, North Carolina, and was described as “magnificent” by the first lady during brief off-the-cuff remarks to reporters.
“Some of the kids said that they had never seen a tree so big,” the first lady added.
As is tradition, the chandelier in the Blue Room of the White House will be removed to accommodate the fraser fir, which will stand floor to ceiling.
Siblings Amber Scott and Alex Church of Cline Church Nursery – which received the 2023 Grand Champion Grower title in the National Christmas Tree Association’s annual contest – officially presented the tree to Dr. Biden. Church told Spectrum News in a previous interview the nursery is a family business, started in 1975 when his parents got married.
Dating back to 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has held a competition for the coveted White House Blue Room spot. The previous two trees, also both 18.5 feet, came from Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
The family of former President William Howard Taft was the first to put the quintessential holiday symbol in the Blue Room in 1912.
The families joining Biden for Monday’s festivities included members of U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Air Force Reserves, U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Space Force as part of the first lady’s joining forces initiative. The effort – first introduced by then-first lady Michelle Obama and then-second lady Biden – seeks to support military and veteran families, caregivers, and survivors.
On Sunday, the first lady and president celebrated an early Thanksgiving by serving military families a holiday meal at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia.
Spectrum News' Rose Eiklor contributed to this report