Take an Exclusive Sneak Peek Into This Year's 'White House Christmas' Special

Can't wait to explore the holiday wonderland that is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this Sunday? Don't fret: You can unwrap a bit of this treat early.

The White House's 2016 seasonal theme is "The Gift of the Holidays," which cuts deeper than the joy of giving and receiving. In turn, this year's decor celebrates "the true gifts of life," like education, service, good health and friends and family. More than 90 volunteers went to Washington D.C. to lend a hand in embellishing America's first home, and they did it in a thoroughly modern way: 90 percent of the design was created with ornaments and decorations that were already part of the White House’s holiday inventory, rather than new materials. How's that for motivation to dig into the far corners of the closet for the twinkle lights you know you saved last year? 

Ahead of the annual tradition of HGTV's White House Christmas, airing Dec. 11 at 6 p.m., here's a quick look at just a few of the notable designs you'll see on the 2016 special.

LEGOs! 

As seen on HGTV's White House Christmas 2016, the State Dining Room celebrates The Gift of Family and Friends. Inspiration for the room’s décor comes from the feeling of warmth at the holidays—spending time with family and friends and celebrating together in our homes. This year’s holiday theme, “The Gift of the Holidays,” reflects on not only the joy of giving and receiving, but also the true gifts of life, such as service, friends and family, education, and good health, as we celebrate the holiday season.

The State Dining Room is a LEGO-lover’s dream: 56 gingerbread houses (one for each U.S. state and territory) made from more than 200,000 LEGO bricks are tucked under trees throughout the space. The mantel, in turn, has an 18-foot LEGO "paper" chain (4,900 bricks). At-home architects, take note: The custom gingerbread pieces took a team of seven LEGO Master Builders 500 hours to design and build. Better get started on 2017’s holiday decor now. (And enlist some help—which echoes the room’s theme, “the gift of family and friends." Well played, White House.)

A Pencil Tree

As seen on HGTV's White House Christmas 2016, host Egypt Sherrod, shows off the Christmas tree made of No. 1 pencils in the Library of the White House. The Gift of Education will be brought to life in The Library, highlighting the more than 2,700 books housed there. Rulers will rim the base of the holiday trees while crayons and pencils create additional standalone trees. The colorful ornaments on display will spell out the word “girls” in 12 different languages, paying homage to the First Lady’s Let Girls Learn initiative. This year’s holiday theme, “The Gift of the Holidays,” reflects on not only the joy of giving and receiving, but also the true gifts of life, such as service, friends and family, education, and good health, as we celebrate the holiday season.

White House Christmas host Egypt Sherrod is right at home in the library, where decorations celebrate “the gift of education” and highlight the room’s 2,700 books. Pencils and crayons form standalone trees, and the ornaments on display spell out the word GIRLS in 12 different languages—a nod to the First Lady’s Let Girls Learn initiative.

The Garden Hose Tree

As seen on HGTV's White House Christmas 2016, the White House Kitchen Garden on the South Lawn of the White House with decorated large red pots adorned with green garland and a water hose. On March 20, 2009 Michelle Obama broke ground on the largest and most expansive vegetable garden to date on the White House lawn. This year’s holiday theme, “The Gift of the Holidays,” reflects on not only the joy of giving and receiving, but also the true gifts of life, such as service, friends and family, education, and good health, as we celebrate the holiday season.

The White House Kitchen Garden has its own “tree” made entirely of garden hoses. (Don’t worry, the South Lawn’s beehive—which helps pollinate the garden—does not have a Christmas tree made entirely of bees.)

Puppies

As seen on HGTV's White House Christmas 2016, when guests enter the East Hallway, they are greeted by 8,000 bows and ribbons lining the hallway, leading to larger than life replicas of Bo and Sunny—who have gotten into the presents—made of more than 25,000 yarn pom-poms. This year’s holiday theme, “The Gift of the Holidays,” reflects on not only the joy of giving and receiving, but also the true gifts of life, such as service, friends and family, education, and good health, as we celebrate the holiday season.

Beware of puns in the East Hallway, where more than 8,000 bows and ribbons welcome guests at the East Visitor Entrance. Giant replicas of First Dogs Sunny and Bo have gotten into the presents. If you’ve ever suspected Portuguese Water Dogs are secretly made of yarn, here’s proof: These two are 25,000 pompoms.

Making of the White House Christmas Tree

As seen on HGTV's White House Christmas 2016, host Egypt Sherrod, speaks with volunteers as they work on decorating in the Blue Room of the White House. Inside this oval room will be this year’s White House Christmas Tree—a 19 foot Douglas Fir donated by a tree farm in Pennsylvania, trimmed to fit into the Blue Room. Ornaments on the tree reflect the unity of our nation, donated by our fellow citizens across the country, as well as our military service members serving in the U.S. and overseas. The tree’s garland features a ribbon with the preamble to the U.S Constitution. This year’s holiday theme, “The Gift of the Holidays,” reflects on not only the joy of giving and receiving, but also the true gifts of life, such as service, friends and family, education, and good health, as we celebrate the holiday season.

Egypt pitched in to help prepare the massive, one-of-a-kind garland for the White House Christmas Tree: a ribbon hand-lettered with the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. The tree itself is a 19-foot Douglas Fir, donated by a tree farm in Pennsylvania and trimmed to fit in the Blue Room.

Reflections

As seen on HGTV's White House Christmas 2016, inside this oval Blue Room will be this year’s White House Christmas Tree—a 19 foot Douglas Fir donated by a tree farm in Pennsylvania, trimmed to fit into the Blue Room. Ornaments on the tree reflect the unity of our nation, donated by our fellow citizens across the country, as well as our military service members serving in the U.S. and overseas. The tree’s garland features a ribbon with the preamble to the U.S Constitution. This year’s holiday theme, “The Gift of the Holidays,” reflects on not only the joy of giving and receiving, but also the true gifts of life, such as service, friends and family, education, and good health, as we celebrate the holiday season.

Mirrored silhouettes on the Blue Room’s mantel ‘reflect’ national unity as exemplified by our military service members, and ornaments on the tree itself—donated by citizens around the country—bear greetings to loved ones serving in the U.S. and overseas.

Take a Tour of the White House at Christmas

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Welcome to White House Christmas 2016

In the White House Lower Cross Hall, located in one of the wall niches created by White House architect James Hoban, a bust of sixteenth U.S. president Abraham Lincoln greets visitors during the holiday season with a complement of evergreen garland, silver ornaments and snowflakes.

Welcome to the White House Christmas Tour 2016

Host Egypt Sherrod stands on the South Lawn during a visit to the White House and the shoot for HGTV's White House Christmas 2016 special. The annual HGTV special gives viewers VIP access to America's first residence as decorated for the holidays — as well as glimpes of behind-the-scenes prep and activities. This gallery provides a pictorial overview of the holiday decor followed by an extensive room-by-room tour as seen by White House visitors.

Welcome to the White House Christmas Tour 2016

Egypt speaks with some of the White House holiday volunteers. The majority of the holiday décor was designed by Rafanelli Events and executed by 92 volunteers from across the country.

Grand Foyer and Cross Hall

The doorway in the White House Grand Foyer opens onto the Blue Room where the official White House Christmas Tree is located.

The Blue Room

This year's official White House Christmas tree is a 19 foot Douglas Fir donated by a tree farm in Pennsylvania. Ornaments reflect the unity of our nation, and are donated by citizens across the country as well as military service members serving in the U.S. and overseas.

The Blue Room

The tree’s garland features a ribbon with the preamble to the U.S Constitution.

The China Room

The China Room, originally known as the 'Presidential Collection Room' was designated by the First Lady Mrs. Woodrow Wilson in 1917 to display the growing collection of White House china. 

The China Room, Detail

 

The Red Room

The Red Room is one of three state parlors on the White House. The other two are The Blue Room and Green Room.

The Red Room, Detail

This year the decorations in the Red Room include apples, oranges, cranberries and pomegranates, as seen in this tree ornament, an orange accented with dried cloves arranged in star shapes.

The Green Room

The Green Room, another of the three state parlors, features green silk-covered walls, but was originally called the "Green Drawing Room" when a green floor-covering was installed there during the Jefferson administration.

The Green Room, Detail

As with the Red Room, this year's ornamentation in the Green Room feature fruits and pollinators as part of an homage to healthy eating. Lemons, limes and pears feature in the garlands and tree decorations the Green Room. 

The Diplomatic Reception Room

The Diplomatic Reception Room serves as an entrance to the White House from South Grounds for the family and for ambassadors arriving to present their credentials to the President. This year's decorations include two Christmas trees flanking the fireplace and a portrait of first U.S. president George Washington as well as green and red garlands and floral arrangements.

The Diplomatic Reception Room, Detail

 

The White House Library

The White House Library is located on the ground floor of the White House and was originally a laundry room, then a waiting room and, finally, in the 1930s, designated as the library. It currently holds more than 2700 books. The decorating theme, as in years past, reflects education and, this year, pays specific homage to the First Lady's Let Girls Learn initiative.

The Vermeil Room

The Vermeil Room (pronounced vur-MAY) takes its name from the display of a collection of gilded silver – "vermeil" in French –  that was bequeathed to the White House in 1956 by Mrs. Margaret Thompson Biddle. For formal occasions the room serves as a ladies' sitting room.

The Vermeil Room, Detail

This year's holiday ornamentation is predominantly in pink and green hues, and draws inspiration from the room's decor and portraits lining the walls.

The State Dining Room

During the holidays the State Dining Room gets transformed into a reception area for the Christmas celebrations.

The Lower Cross Hall

The Lower Cross Hall is one of the visual highlights of the White House at Christmas, this year turned into a winter wonderland complete with “snowball” arches created from more than 6,000 white and sliver ornaments.

The Lower Cross Hall, Detail

Crystal icicles, glass teardrop ornaments and evergeen garland create a shimmering display arching overhead in the massive hallway. 

The Palm Room

The Palm Room is located between the White House ground floor and the West Wing and serves as a staging area for visitors on the West Wing Side. It is decorated this year in green and gold with nutcracker soldiers, gold eagle figurines and large evergreen wreaths.

The North Portico

The North Portico of the White House is decorated this year with two Christmas trees on either side of the main entrance. The trees are adorned with silver bells tied with red ribbon.

North Portico, Detail

 

Patriotic Holiday Decor

HGTV host Egypt Sherrod places a gold star ornament on a Christmas tree in the Booksellers Room at the White House

Gingerbread Visions

Egypt Sherrod and White House's executive pastry chef Susan Morrison admire this year's completed Gingerbread House in the  White House State Dining Room. 

Holiday Greetings from The First Lady

First Lady Michelle Obama speaks to visitors and members of the press in the White House's East Room where the setting is traditional holiday décor, with red, gold and green ornaments.

Holiday Greetings from The First Lady

 

Holiday Greetings from The First Lady

 

Honored Guests

First Lady Michelle Obama meets with children of military families in the State Dining Room and, here, takes the opportunity to introduce the kids to "First Dogs" Sunny and Bo. 

Honored Guests

 

A High Five From a First Lady

 

Meet the Press

A host of photographers and reporters document the event as children visitors meet the First Lady and get to assist with holiday decoration.

Ready for a Close-Up

First Lady Michelle poses for a selfie with some of the White House visitors.

State Dining Room, Detail

A celebrity of a different sort, plus a team of very tiny reindeer, put in an appearance in the State Dining Room.

State Dining Room

As in years past, the State Dining Room is the final destination for the elaborately engineered gingerbread replica of the White House.

State Dining Room

An entrance to the State Dining Room is given the holiday treatment with an archway created with a peppermint and candy cane motif.

The East Entrance

Guests to the White House catch their first glimpse of holiday themes as they approach the East Entrance.

The East Entrance

This year’s holiday theme "The Gift of the Holidays” is symbolically reinforced by this stylized giftwrap sculpture at the East Entrance.

The East Entrance

Red is defintely this year's color at the White House East Entrance exterior, highlighted here by a central archway made from thousands of red ornamanets.

The East Entrance, Detail

 

Larger Than Life

Guests entering at the East Hallway are greeted by gigantic replicas of First Dogs Sunny and Bo.

Larger Than Life

Guests entering at the East Hallway are greeted by gigantic replicas of First Dogs Sunny and Bo.

A Dog's Life

Since the East Entrance Hallway seems to be the holiday domain of Sunny and Bo, the decorative theme incorporates themes in keeping with more canine interests — namely tennis balls and dog treats.

A Dog's Life

 

A Dog's Life

Sunny and Bo display their White House credentials at the East Entrance hallway.

Formal White House Reception

Egypt Sherrod is received by the real First Dogs Sunny and Bo in the Diplomatic Reception Room.

The East Hallway

 

The East Hallway

Portraits of former First Ladies Nancy Reagan and Elizabeth (Bess) Truman haning in the East Entrance Hallway.

The East Hallway

The East Hallway features an impressive display createf from more than 8,000 red bows and ribbons.

The East Hallway, Detail

The Holiday Volunteer overseeing the decorations in the East Visitor Entrance and East Hallway was Patrick Clayton of New York City.

The East Colonnade

The East Colonnade, frequently the setting for one of the more impressive holiday displays at the White House, this year features an overhead installation created from more than 7500 strands of ribbon in red, white and blue and accented by sparkling crystal ornaments.

The East Colonnade, Detail

 

The East Colonnade

 

The East Colonnade

The Holiday Volunteer overseeing the decorations in the East Colonnade this year was Christine Framstad of Clifton, Virginia.

The Rose Garden Walkway

 

The Booksellers Room

The theme of the Booksellers Room this year is "The Gift of Service" — honoring military families through the First Lady and Dr. Biden’s Joining Forces initiative. The focal piece is a large three-dimensional flag installation featuring images of the First Family with members of the military.

The Booksellers Room, Detail

 

The Booksellers Room, Detail

 

The Booksellers Room, Detail

The Holiday Volunteer overseeing the decorations in the Booksellers Room this year was Xiomara Grant of Springfield, Virginia.

The Booksellers Room, Detail

Gold stars hung on the tree honor fallen members of the military.

The Booksellers Room, Detail

 

The Booksellers Room, Detail

For the second year a digital interface is available for guests to send messages of appreciation and support to U.S. troops.

The Booksellers Room, Detail

 

The Booksellers Room

A choir performs in the Booksellers Room.

The Lower Cross Hall

The Lower Cross Hall runs from east to west connecting the State Dining Room to the East Room and providing access to the Green Room, Red Room, Blue Room and Library. It is one of the visual highlights of the White House at Christmas, this year features  “snowball” arches created from more than 6,000 white and silver ornaments.

The Lower Cross Hall, Detail

During the holidays, snowmen stand watch on either side of the Cross Hall.

The Lower Cross Hall, Detail

 

The Lower Cross Hall, Detail

 

The Lower Cross Hall, Detail

 

The Lower Cross Hall, Detail

 

Lower Cross Hall, Detail

A portrait of First Lady Elizabeth (Betty) Bloomer Ford hangs in the Lower Cross Hall.

Lower Cross Hall, Detail

A portrait of First Lady Rosalynn Carter also hangs in the Lower Cross Hall.

Lower Cross Hall, Detail

The entry to the Librar as seen from the Lower Cross Hall.

The Library

The Gift of Education is a theme in The White House Library which this year includes a central display of trees created entirely out of penciles and crayons.

The Library, Detail

The decorations also pay homage to  First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative.

The Library

 

The Library, Detail

Colorful ornaments on display in the trees and garlands spell out the word "girls" in twelve different languages.

The Library, Detail

Colorful ornaments on display in the trees and garlands spell out the word "girls" in twelve different languages.

The Library

The Holiday Volunteer overseeing decorations in the Library this year was Vicki Shapro of Seabeck, Washington.

The Library, Detail

 

The Library, Detail

 

The Library

Host Egypt Sherrod visits the White House Library and is particularly impressed by the Christmas tree made entirely of No. 1 pencils.

The Vermeil Room

The Vermeil Room features pastel yellow walls and, in addition to the silver collection from which it derives its name, houses the portraits of seven former First Ladies.

The Vermeil Room

 

The Vermeil Room

This year the Vermeil Room is decorated with inspiration from the portraits lining the walls and features a soft, feminine touch with pastel-toned ornaments in “ballerina” pinks, fresh orchids and pearl garlands in the trees. 

The Vermeil Room

 

The Vermeil Room

 

The Vermeil Room, Detail

The portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, painted in 1970 by artist Aaron Shikler, is seen here with orchids from the table centerpiece in the foreground.

The Vermeil Room, Detail

 

The Vermeil Room, Detail

 

The Vermeil Room, Detail

 

The Vermeil Room, Detail

 

The Vermeil Room, Detail

 

The Vermeil Room, Detail

The Holiday Volunteer overseeing the decorations in the Vermeil Room this year was Stacy Owens of Lexington, Kentucky.

The China Room

The China Room this year commemorates previous presidencies features 36 White House Historical Association ornaments.

The China Room

The collections of china, glass and silverware from past presidencies are arranged chronologically from left to right. The red palette in the room draws on the red dress worn by First Lady Grace Coolidge in the full-length portrait that's featured prominently in the room.

The China Room

 

The China Room

The Holiday Volunteer overseeing the decorations in the China Room this year was Isabel Rubio of Birmingham, Alabama.

The China Room

 

Get the Rest of the Story

The tour and the holiday celebrations don't end here! Check out the rest of the photo tour here:
White House Christmas Tour 2016 Gallery - Part II.

The second half of the tour includes the Grand Foyer, State Dining Room, Green Room, Red Room, Blue Room, Palm Room, Diplomatic Reception Room, East Room, the Gingerbread White House and more.

Ready to see the rest of the White House Christmas celebration? Don't miss the White House Christmas 2016 special on HGTV, Dec. 11 at 6 p.m.

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