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Holiday White House

First Lady Laura Bush describes the theme for this year’s holiday season, ’A Red, White and Blue Christmas,’ during a media preview at the White House Wednesday.

AP photo

WASHINGTON — In the spirit of a tough economy, holiday decorations from Christmases past are adorning the White House this Christmas.

First lady Laura Bush talked to reporters Wednesday about the holiday choices for a “A Red, White and Blue Christmas” during a sneak peek of a decked-out White House, including the official White House Christmas tree — an 18 1/2 -foot Fraser fir from Crumpler, N.C., that brushed the Blue Room ceiling — and an extensive menu from artisanal cheeses to cheesy stone-ground grits to coconut cake.

More than 60,000 visitors are expected to visit the White House for tours, with 25 holiday receptions and seven dinners planned.

While the official tree holds 369 decorations from artists around the country, the various fir trees scattered throughout the White House have red and blue ornaments from years past. In the ground floor corridor, the White House brought back miniature reproductions of presidents’ homes, including those of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, that appeared in December 2001.

“I’ve gotten letters from people since, really, right after September 11th that suggested we have a red, white and blue Christmas,” Laura Bush told reporters gathered in the East Room. “It gave us a chance to reuse a lot of red ornaments, because we had a lot of those, of course. We brought back some other decorations from Christmases past, just like everyone does, goes through their attic and comes up with their old decorations.”

She also said the lights on the trees in the White House have low-energy LED bulbs, and she encouraged Americans to use them when their holiday lights wear out to save energy.

In another example of frugal planning, Laura Bush said the first couple would be spending their Christmas money on Texas real estate for what she referred to as the “afterlife” — the time when they leave the White House in January after her husband’s eight years in office. The couple will be buying a house in Dallas, with plans to spend weekends at their ranch in Crawford.

“This year, we’re going to be very, very careful at Christmas. I suspect that a lot of other American families will be the same,” Laura Bush said. “We’re going to try to be with each other, to have what really, really matters at the holidays, which is your family and friends around you, to be thankful for our blessings. ... But also ... we will be moving to Dallas in January. And there might be a new house coming along. So I think that’s where we’ll spend our Christmas money, right at the real estate time.”

Sally McDonough, the first lady’s press secretary, said the first couple don’t have occupancy of the Dallas property yet.

A wistful first lady spoke at length about a few of her favorite things in the White House, from a dedicated staff to the historical art and furniture to what awaits the next first family, Barack and Michelle Obama and their two daughters.

She recalled a conversation with Hillary Rodham Clinton when the former first lady gave Mrs. Bush a tour of the White House before the Bushes moved in January 2001.

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