Decorating the White House for Christmas started with President Benjamin Harrison and his family in 1889 when they decorated the first indoor Christmas tree used by the first family. Though not all first families since Harrison have had a Christmas Tree, it has been an uninterrupted tradition since the Hoover administration.Today, hundreds of volunteers come from around the country to help the first family decorate the White House for Christmas. For so many of these individuals, it is a dream come true. In addition to florists and garden club members, 100 volunteers are selected every year from thousands of requests received by the White House. Are you or someone you know interested in volunteering to decorate the White House for Christmas? Here are some suggestions that might help you secure an invitation.
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Outline a letter explaining your nomination.
Create a list with the reasons why a certain individual should be nominated. For example, this person may embody the spirit of Christmas, give selflessly of herself to a charity or the community or it could just be a lifelong dream. This list of reasons will form the backbone of your letter.
Explain your relationship to this person in the letter to establish the connection between you and your nominee. If the nominee has provided you with particular guidance or inspiration, these details would also be appropriate to add.
Include the contact information for you and your nominee. This way, the White House will know how to contact the nominee if selected. The White House does ask for an e-mail address if available.
Address the letter to a specific individual at the White House.
Decide to whom you should send the letter. Different volunteers have had success sending their letters to various people who work in the White House. Be specific so that the letter does not get lost among the rest of the mail going to the White House. The following steps provide some contacts you can use.
Address your letter to the White House social secretary. In 2010, Julianna Smoot became the social secretary for the White House.
Address your letter to the White House chief floral designer. In 2010, Laura Dowling became the chief floral designer, following the retirement of Nancy Clarke who held the post for 30 years.
Address your letter directly to the First Lady. Since 1929, the responsibility of trimming the White House Christmas Tree has belonged to the First Lady.
Prepare the final draft of your letter.
Combine the qualities of the nominee outlined earlier with your personal connection. Clearly state your reason for this nomination at the start of the letter. For example, "Joe would make the perfect volunteer to help decorate the White House for Christmas because of his love of sharing the magic of the holidays with others."
Add in your letter any skills this person has that might be useful when decorating the White House. For example, Patrick is a skilled carpenter or Anne works part-time as a florist. As some volunteers have recounted, having such skills are not required to be selected as a volunteer. Nevertheless, it could help with your nomination.
Choose if you will send the nomination by e-mail or regular mail. If you chose to send an e-mail message, log onto the White House website (see References) and go to the Contact Us section. If you choose regular mail, send the letter to this address: The White House; 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; Washington, DC 20500. Address your letter to the attention of a specific individual.
Wait for a reply.
Wait for a reply from the White House. There is no set date by which successful volunteers will be notified, although some have received word in October.
Write more than one letter while you are waiting for a response from your initial nomination. Sending in one or two extra letters could help illustrate the sincerity of the nomination.
Research transportation options so that your nominee can make plans quickly if he is selected.
Apply again next year if you do not get a response or your nominee was not selected.
Start writing early. Many volunteers report writing letters in January and being notified in October. Also try contacting your local state representative for help.
In some instances, you might want to check with the person you wish to nominate before sending in the nomination because of the time commitment that must be made if selected.
- White House: Contact Us
- Todd Richesin Interiors: Christmas Decorating at the White House
- Washington Post: The White House's New Florist
- Washington Post: White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers Resigns
- Rockford Register Star: Boylan Graduate Decorates the White House for Christmas
- White House History: The Start of a Holiday Tradition
- The White House