Though the hate-filled press would like you to think otherwise, this Christmas we have witnessed a return to a classic sense of style at the White House.
The much-discussed Trump Christmas decor has contributed to this proper and appropriate appreciation of style which—as opposed to fashion—is timeless. Adam Flusser, the master of sartorial propriety, taught us certain standards complement our humanity. Style is higher than fashion because style comports itself with something eternal; something that is in accord timeless and elegant principles.
Fashion, on the other hand, is trendy, popular, fleeting, chaotic, and ultimately based on the time-bound opinions of this world.
As it is in dress and architecture, so it is with decor and design. They have the potential, when done correctly and with taste, to teach us something about the noble, the good, and the beautiful. Our public buildings and our homes are meant to have function, naturally, but also to impress upon us that a natural order exists in this world and that we, if we subordinate ourselves to that order, can uncover a particular measure of pleasure and happiness as we live in harmony with it.
Is all of this introduction a bit much for describing the Trumps and they way they’ve treated the job of decorating the White House for Christmas this year? Maybe. But considering the chaotic sense of our politics over the last several years, it is good to find a reassuring sense of style emerge again in the public celebration of the one sacred holiday the nation has been unwilling, even in the most secular redoubts, to give up.
Melania Trump seems to understand, or at least to have a sense of this need in the country. She has corrected the last eight years of narcissistic and chaotic Christmas decor. This shouldn’t come as a surprise: Melania’s birthplace, Slovenia, is a country that still embraces traditional Christianity and timeless faith.
When the Obamas occupied the White House, their decorations reflected a cavalier attitude not only about the meaning of Christmas, but also about the idea of balance, form, and symmetry. The Obamas decorated their trees in a confused and disordered fashion. They were known to display ornaments reflecting the likenesses of the Communist Mao, a morphed visage of Barack Obama and Abraham Lincoln, and even a drag queen known as “Hedda Lettuce.” There were even likenesses of their dogs.
The Obamas probably thought they were clever or whimsical, but what they managed to reveal was something narcissistic and inward-looking as they lived in the people’s house. If it was open to others, it was open as a testament to themselves.
Of course, the fawning lickspittle press adored the ugliness the Obamas wrought, but it was a vulgar mess. To note one example, all one has to do is look at the 2016 Christmas trees in the state dining room. Here the Obama’s betrayed their penchant for transforming things yet again. Not only did they attempt to change the Christmas trees by doing violence to their natural form and dressing them up to resemble birthday cakes, but the skirts under the trees were dissimilar, and the trees were not sized to match one another— throwing off the balance of the room. Perhaps there is no more fitting testament to a presidency that endeavored to “fundamentally transform” our republic. And it didn’t work.
If the Obama decor was a cluttered, occasionally abstract, mess, the Trump decor is elegant in its simplicity.
Every room strives for balance and has a coherent theme. It is neither too busy, nor too abstract or modern in its message. If trees line a room, for example, there are equal numbers and equal parts to the entire design.
The Christmas trees are not overdone with decorations, either. Their branches are not overloaded with a cacophony of unrelated items. Nor are the trees treated as anything other than trees. Nature is honored and accentuated to invoke beauty.
Many rooms—like the grand foyer—are given a snow-like effect on and around the trees. This relates a sense of peace and quiet. The classical display encourages a solemn contemplation of the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Even the gingerbread house of the Trumps is dignified and straightforward in its decoration, which only enhances its grandeur. The Obamas hideous gingerbread house was an unbalanced and cluttered to such an extent that it hid the White House from view and featured a gingerbread man and woman that, we suppose, must represent the Obamas. Of course.
The Trumps have resurrected Christmas, unlike Obama who hired the controversial social secretary-designer Desirée Rogers. A New York Times profile last year revealed that Rogers and the Obamas desired a Christmas without the Nativity to make it a more “inclusive” holiday. According to the story:
The lunch conversation inevitably turned to whether the White House would display its crèche, customarily placed in a prominent spot in the East Room. Ms. Rogers, this participant said, replied that the Obamas did not intend to put the manger scene on display — a remark that drew an audible gasp from the tight-knit social secretary sisterhood. (A White House official confirmed that there had been internal discussions about making Christmas more inclusive and whether to display the crèche.)
The Trumps without a doubt are friendlier in demeanor, and decor, to religion and a traditional celebration of the holiday.
A final example of the Trump inclination to classic forms should suffice: the White House is decorated with Christmas wreaths placed on all the windows for the first time in decades. Each one of the decorations is centered over the window, with red ribbons centered on the wreath. The outside of the White House with its numerous wreaths accentuates the symmetry of the Christmas decor.
But wreaths have a particular meaning at Christmas: “Since a wreath has no beginning or end, it symbolizes God’s eternity and mercy, particularly during the Christmas season. When made of evergreen boughs, it symbolizes everlasting life and God’s everlasting love, its green color representing hope and new life.” The red bows that Melania took care to craft represent the blood of Christ who sacrificed for humanity.
It is fitting that the Trumps have brought back a sense of tradition to their decor. The tradition they honor, however, is not a slavish dedication to the past born of reflexive resistance to change. It is a tradition based on an eternal representation of the good life and the eternal Word made flesh. Christmas is overtly Christian again in the White House. It is a blessing we have the Trumps to thank for its conservation.