Mrs. Bush announces Christmas season begins at White House

The White House ushered in the holiday season today by unveiling its lush Christmas decorations, a panoply of fresh tulips and azaleas, amber glass balls, garlands strung with lemons and a partridge in a pear tree - or, at least, a partridge on a bay topiary hung with pears.

The centerpiece of the decorations, which more than 45,000 tourists are expected to see, is an 181/2-foot Fraser fir from the family-owned and -operated Smokey Holler Tree Farm in Laurel Springs, N.C. Adorned with lilies and ivory roses sipping water from hanging glass tubes doubling as ornaments, the fir reaches the top of the Blue Room's ceiling, displacing the chandelier that normally overlooks the room. The glitter of the tree's tiny white lights, reflected by a spiral of crystal garland, now light the room instead.

Asked whether she had any hesitation about calling the fir a Christmas tree - a term that some communities and retailers are avoiding - &to=' target=_blank>Laura Bush replied: "Well, no, not really. At this season we know that Americans celebrate the season in a lot of different ways. We'll have a Hanukkah party, Hanukkah reception here at the &to=' target=_blank>White House later during the month. But I think we've always called this the White House Christmas tree. And I think it's particularly beautiful this year with the lilies on it," reports New York Times.

It has been quite a year for the White House. The president continues to be criticized because of the situation in Iraq, but Ms. Bush says there are positive things to keep in mind.

"I know we're impatient and I know it's very, very difficult to watch those images from Iraq, and to be so fearful for our American troops that are there all the time, which I know all Americans are — not just the families of the deployed, but all Americans have a very difficult time watching our troops over there and worrying about our troops over there.

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