Apart from the odd nod to a funerary urn, first lady Melania Trump broke with tradition this year with her White House Christmas decorations, opting for fairly normal green trees with red and gold ornaments instead of the blood-red foliage or Shining-esque ghost-white branches of previous years.
This year’s theme, unveiled on Monday, was “America the beautiful”, inspired, she said, by Americans’ shared appreciation “for our traditions, values and history”.
The New York Times declared the aesthetic was “strikingly normal”. Mashable reported that the decorations were “fine”.
Workers on the front lines of a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 266,000 people in the United States and infected more than 13 million others have been recognised in the Red Room with a Christmas tree dotted with handmade ornaments, as well as other decorations around the parlour.
Some 125 volunteers from around the country used 62 trees, 106 wreaths, more than 1,200 feet (366 meters) of garland, more than 3,200 strands of lights and 17,000 bows to decorate the 132-room White House over the course of Thanksgiving weekend.
But Trump’s unique brand of Christmas interior design was not totally absent this year. The annual gingerbread White House for the first time included the Rose Garden – the site of the White House superspreader event, at which the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court was announced. It was included, according to the White House, because the first lady had recently renovated the garden.
Donald and Melania Trump, and their son Baron, later each tested positive for the virus.
Lining the East Colonnade, a set of black vessels holding foliage from every US state and territory drew comparisons to funerary urns.
Monday’s unveiling of the Christmas decor came weeks after Melania Trump was heard on an audio recording using profanity as she complained about the pressure of having to decorate for the holiday in the past.
The recording of the July 2018 conversation was made and released to CNN by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who was fired from the White House earlier that year.
On Monday, #MelaniaHatesChristmas trended on Twitter.
The first lady has raised eyebrows with her past Christmas choices. In 2018, the decorations included 40 all-red trees, prompting comparisons with characters from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
In 2017, the east wing was lined with ghostly white branches lit from below. The look inspired internet users to Photoshop the Babadook, Dementors from Harry Potter and a Jack Nicholson from The Shining beneath the barren arch.