Christmas Decorating at the White House

In 2008, after four years of writing letters and making phone calls aplenty, Glen Ridge resident and holiday decorator Coleen Christian Burke finally received the opportunity she was hoping for—an invite to help decorate the White House for Christmas.

While there, Burke came across a photo of Bill and Hillary Clinton in front of an extravagantly decorated Christmas tree. “The picture captured a grand Christmas moment, and I had never seen anything like it before. It made me think there might be other photos like it from other administrations,” Burke says.

After further research, Burke decided to compile the private and little-seen holiday moments of first families in a book. Christmas with the First Ladies (Insight Editions) details decorating traditions from Jacqueline Kennedy through Michelle Obama, and depicts how each transformed the White House during the holiday season. Each of the 10 chapters is dedicated to a First Lady, shows photos of her Christmas decorations in the White House, recipes and do-it-yourself instructions to recreate some of her traditions. There’s a recipe for Nancy Reagan’s monkey bread, and how-to instructions for Michelle Obama’s gingerbread ornaments. “It’s a hybrid,” says Burke, who also runs seasonal decorating company Sugar Plums. “[The book is] history and it’s lifestyle.”

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