LBJ, Trump families’ blue and red trees of nostalgia

WASHINGTON — When former President Lyndon B. Johnson was elected, he embraced Christmas as a holiday break when he wasn’t visiting troops in the South Pacific or signing historic civil rights legislation in the…

LBJ, Trump families’ blue and red trees of nostalgia

WASHINGTON — When former President Lyndon B. Johnson was elected, he embraced Christmas as a holiday break when he wasn’t visiting troops in the South Pacific or signing historic civil rights legislation in the White House.

Like a holiday tree, the Johnson tree is often treasured as a reminder of that welcoming spirit. This year, the First Family bought two Johnson Christmas trees.

First lady Melania Trump’s holiday display includes a Leyland cypress grown on Christmas at Camp David. It’s decorated with gold-and-green ribbon. President Donald Trump, too, has the tradition. He lives at the estate in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.

White House principal resident designer David Siegel pulled together the Dec. 21 theme, “My American Christmas,” for the event. Instead of decorations, he used a turntable that played recordings of White House staffers’ favorite Christmas songs. Some of the recordings, such as Sara Evans’s “Merry Christmas” and “Silent Night,” were inspired by a single song, which his wife, Lauren, also chose. Their four children were the official ring bearers.

“I always focus on Americana and national landmarks as my backdrop for this special time of year,” Siegel wrote in an invitation for the event, which attracted about 700 guests. He’s also developed garden decor and mixed materials for the Christmas tree, which was decorated by Sara Underwood.

Children’s author Joanne K. Smith received a little something extra this year. The White House invited her for the cake. Her work, a children’s book called “Fire on Christmas,” deals with bullying and celebrating Christ’s birth.

The Tishman Speyer Real Estate Group, with the help of that family’s Little People’s Museum and Learning Center in Rye, New York, put together a detailed gift selection for the Obamas, including lanterns from Hawaii.

Michelle Obama liked that the display was outdoors and the lights remained on as she walked around the White House.

“Having the lights on is a great idea,” she said. “It’s a reminder that Christmas is not just about that in-and-out aspect of the holidays, it’s about finding that magic at home.”

She used a prop from the book, a decoder ring with a chip that tells visitors she’s from Hawaii.

The Obamas didn’t leave a tree at the White House, but they have some in the president’s private residence.

This week, Trump put the first of four trees on display in the Blue Room in a display that showed diversity. It was dedicated by Brad Hines, who is black, and Heidi Hayes, who is white.

When Mrs. Trump went shopping for decorations with Siegel, she was looking for a tree that could take the elements, “and I was seeking a tree that will create a beach setting that can sustain and support a lot of friends and family members throughout the holiday season.”

Those searching for the LBJ tree might find something similar: A traditional log on the lawn.

— Associated Press writer Michael Biesecker contributed to this report.

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