Keeping Christmas Great

Christmas season is upon us, which means it is another opportunity for legacy media to take shots at President Trump and his elegant wife, Melania. What could possibly be the latest outrage? Same as every year—their supposed poor aesthetic taste in their choices for Christmas decorations at the People’s House. This year the substantive criticisms have not been as overtly negative, rather the attacks have been more personal.

Melania chose “The Spirit of America” as this year’s theme. Before we delve into an assessment of the decorations around that theme, we ought to note the religious symbolism of the effort that came under attack.

The corporate tabloid leading the pack in choosing to take the holiday season as an opportunity to make asinine comments about the current administration is, as usual, the Washington Post. The tabloid wrote two articles about this year’s Christmas decorations, but went all in for a personal attack criticizing what Melania wore in the presentation video.

“Fashion critic” Robin Givhan wrote that the first lady’s “coat looks ridiculous.” Why? She can hardly tell you. All she can muster is a feeble, “but more than a silly fashion folly, the coat is a distraction. It’s a discomforting affectation taken to a ludicrous extreme. In a video that is intended to celebrate the warmth and welcoming spirit of the holiday season, that simple flourish exudes cold, dismissive aloofness.”

Now, keep in mind, these assertions are never explained. They just are, apparently, obvious. Why was the coat a “distraction” or “ludicrous” or “cold” or aloof? Who knows. She never actually tells us.

At the Post’s assertion passes as argument. However, Givhan is a “fashion” critic, which means by definition she has no knowledge of style, which never goes out of “fashion.” Someone concerned with the fleeting idea of fashion finds the timelessness of style incomprehensible. And, as a matter of style, Melania’s manner of dress is exquisite. In fact, her attention to detail in the material of the coat itself is appropriately suited to the time and the season. Such attention exudes warmth not frigidity. There is a tradition of wearing white in winter. If only there were fashion outlets that understood an all white ensemble is actually making a sophisticated statement.

Melania is wearing an elegant white coat (and dress with matching heels) for a reason in her excellent video presentation. To the religious illiterate, it might seem out of place. Those who do not understand the symbolic meaning of white likely have never set foot in the 2000 year old Church whereby the color has always represented the purity of Christ washing sins away. Knowing this, is knowing that Melania’s decorations and stylish choices are meant to point to the religious origins of Christmas.

The colonnade, which last year hosted the red cranberry trees, is dressed in all white this year. It portrays less of a wintry effect than it did in 2017, and more of a rite of passage this year. For those paying attention, the colonnade went from all red last year to all white this year. Red traditionally has represented the fall of Adam and Eve and the blood of Jesus dying on the cross. Going from red (the fall and dying for our sins), to white means His sacrifice has cleansed us of those sins. His birth was meant for such a holy purpose. It reflects poorly on any commentator who neglects even to consider this possibility.

In the Post’s second attack piece, the paper demonstrated its religious and seasonal incompetence by writing that the all-white colonnade was “monochromatic.” That was not a compliment. Regardless of such criticisms, the Trump White House has made the representation of the religious prominently symbolic in a singular way.

In a statement, the first lady explained that the intent of this year’s theme is “a tribute to the traditions, customs, and history that make our Nation great.” She concluded, “I want to honor those who have shaped our country and made it the place we are proud to call home . . . many Americans share a strong set of values and deep appreciation for the traditions and history of our great nation.” The ornamental result is a decor that features the American flag as the symbol of our political union.

The tabloids, however, did not delight in the patriotic representation and instead contended that the decorative Americana looked “cheap.” In pursuit of someone to legitimize their disgraceful tirade, they contacted self-proclaimed event expert, and extravagant socialite to the leftist media complex, Bronson van Wyck, to wax superficially about the decorations: “They look like something you could find at any shopping mall, and maybe that was the goal. And if that was the goal, then no problem.”

Wyck, we might recall, is responsible for one New York City special event where he suspended vegetables from a ceiling. In that star-studded occasion, at least one of the decorations fell on the head of a patron. Classy.

About the decorations this year, Wyck went on arrogantly to offer his services for next year. I fail to see why Melania would want to hire someone who decorates with material you could find at your local grocery store.

One of Wyck’s standards for White House Christmas splendor is Jaqueline Kennedy, who, he exclaimed, surpassed Melania in taste and arrangement. Unfortunately, if this is what he means, then we have to question the soundness of Wyck’s judgement. Talk about pedestrian. Jacqueline has a reputation for being the classiest first lady, but her Christmas decorative skills were, in reality, not especially glamorous. Melania Trump has her outclassed.

It is not clear that Wyck even saw this year’s presentation because adorning a few of the trees are large golden American Bald Eagle toppers. If anyone knows what shopping mall carries those, please let me know. Nothing represents the majestic idea of the Union better than the bald eagle. These eagles are placed atop two trees framing the ornate creche in the East Room. Their presence next to the creche is unmistakable.

The lighted adornment of the trees with the Eagles is not overdone, but frames the religious center. To one side is a portrait of George Washington, with his hand extended, pointing past the tree and toward the creche while seemingly looking at the eagle. The symbolism is lost on the uninitiated. The deep and profound meaning is that this country seeks to be a good country by the guidance of a Holy God who gives us the opportunity to shed ourselves of our sins. What could be at once a more patriotic and humbling message?

The decorations this year are minimalist and natural, not crammed into every crevice like we saw in the Obama and Clinton White Houses. There is no clutter. The decorations harken back to a noble and simpler past. The simplicity speaks of a republican elegance to the country, which had to suffer much to become great. Republics are not ostentatious or gaudy, they are full of purpose. The result is a robust presentation of American history. The purpose is singular, as to honor this nation. It does not, as in the Obama years, pay homage to communist China or to sexual identity. This year, Christmas transcends all of that. There is nothing despotic, petty, or carnal here.

One of the aspects of that purpose is the traditional gingerbread White House. Adorning the area surrounding it are some of the iconic feature of the birth and growth of the American experiment. On one side are the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle, and Mount Rushmore. On the other side we find the Alamo, the Liberty Bell, and the Jefferson Arch of St. Louis. Each of these representations remind us of the struggle for independence, and then the westward migration.

The landmarks represented by the monuments traces our history. That portion of the decor speaks not just to the foundations of the American republic, but also to its growth. The American version of Christmas incorporates the particular honorable history represented in the monuments Melania chose to honor. It not only evokes the dedication to an idea (liberty) but also human ingenuity in engineering.

As in other years, the tradition of a Gold Star tree to honor the families of fallen soldiers, and the wreaths in the center of the windows remains. The Trump administration revived that tradition and symmetric placing of the wreaths on the White House. Such a return to traditional placement of the wreath symbolizes order and the unending presence of God.

This season the White House Christmas decor leaves us with much to be thankful for as we remember all of those who have gone before us, remembering that their sacrifice was not in vain, and that this country is unique among the nations. The patriotic theme reminds us that the blessings of this country were not the result of human effort alone.

Merry Christmas!

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About Erik Root

Erik Root, Ph.D is a writer living in North Carolina.

Photo: Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

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