With Christmas right around the corner, halls are decked and the trees are trimmed all across the Lone Star State. But at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, the Christmas decorations represent a piece of American history, we should never forget.
It was March of 2001. First Lady Laura Bush had just moved into her new residence and was busy picking out the theme for the year's Christmas decor.
"I picked the theme home for the holidays. I knew from my mother in law, you needed to start the decorations early," Bush told KCBD.
Mrs. Bush says she chose the theme because of her love for doll houses, but little did she know, Home for the Holidays would take on a new meaning just six months later.
"Of course after September 11th, home meant so much more to us. And it was a poignant theme because there were people that weren't home and weren't at the Christmas dinner table or the holiday celebration because they either were lost on September 11th or deployed to Afghanistan," Bush said.
After the attacks, White House tours were halted for security reasons, so the Christmas decor was never seen by the public until now. The Home for the Holidays exhibit at the Bush Center gives the public a chance to see the decor on display that year.
A focal point of the exhibit is a replica of the 2001 White House Christmas tree. Many of the original handcrafted ornaments are hung on the tree, including Mrs. Bush's favorite, which represents that fateful day in September.
"My favorite ornament is the twin towers on a little cloud in heaven. I think we realized that year what really mattered to us. And I think people did spend that kind of Christmas and that kind of quality time with their loved ones, not the wild hustle and bustle through the malls," Bush said.
Bush Center Curator and Texas Tech grad, Amy Polley was given the daunting task of replicating the 18-foot original tree.
"I think the tree overall turned out really well. We were recreating it from photographs. And one of my big concerns was are we going to have enough ornaments. The theme was Home for the Holidays and Mrs. Bush requested from all the states, historic homes or places of worship that were handmade by artisans," Polley said.
But the tree is the just beginning of the winter wonderland. The exhibit features 18-scale models of the homes of American presidents, along with gifts given to the first family that Christmas and even a 19th century menorah.
"It was the first time a Menorah had ever been lit in the White House and then we had a Hanukkah party every year after that," Bush said.
Nearly 300,000 people have visited the Bush center on the SMU campus in Dallas since its opening in May and the First Lady hopes Home for the Holidays will bring in even more, especially from the South Plains.
"I hope people will come from West Texas. I know a lot of people came when Tech played SMU, so I hope people will make a day trip out and make it a family tradition to see Christmas at the White House here at the Bush Center," Bush said.
Home for Holidays: Christmas at the White house 2001 runs through January 5th. The Bush Center plans to continue their holiday exhibit next year and eventually feature every year of Bush's presidency.
For more information, visit bushcenter.org.
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