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Bo stars at showcase of White House holiday decorations


The first family's pet dog, Bo, starred Wednesday at a preliminary viewing of holiday decorations at the White House for military families.

First lady Michelle Obama opened the White House to Gold and Blue Star military families (along with the press) to preview the White House in its fully decorated form. And Bo, the Portugese water dog, was a central part of the display; there are five Bo “topiaries” throughout the White House tour route and it’s possible to find some Bo-item in almost every room.  For instance, in the Vermeil Room, there’s a Bo ornament hanging on one of the trees -- next to an iconic painting of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

The theme of the decorations, “Shine, Give, Share,” is emblazoned on banners placed throughout the house. According to the White House, “The theme translates to the holiday décor on several levels. There is the literal translation through the use of shiny elements…There is also a conceptual connection. We’re inviting visitors to give their thanks to members of our military.”

This is particularly evident at the East Landing of the White House, where visitors are greeted with the “Gold Star Families Tree.”  Gold Star families visiting the White House can write messages on star ornaments to military loved ones and hang them on the tree. Anyone visiting can write a note to be sent to members of the armed forces.

The first lady, in remarks welcoming the military families in the East Room of the White House gave a preview of what is written on some of the stars.  She spoke of a wife from East Peoria, IL who wrote of her late husband, "He never thought of himself as a hero, but he always was to me...he was my soulmate."

Mrs. Obama said, as part of her and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative, the Gold and Blue Star families were invited in an attempt to make sure the country knows what  those designations stand for. (Gold Star families have relatives who died while serving in the armed services and Blue Star families have relatives who are currently serving.)  The official White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room is adorned with holiday cards and messages from military children.  Also, military medals and badges from all of the branches of the military serve as ornaments.

But the young children invited today weren’t all that into the military medals or the replicated presidential holiday cards in the Library or the quartz ornaments hanging off the East Room trees.  (Though the large Bo replica made of 35 yards of wool felt in the East Garden Room did catch the eye of a couple of children.) At first the kids were excited about decorating Christmas cookies and making Bo ornaments in the State Dining Room with the help of the First Lady.  But that really was nothing compared to the excitement that ensued when the actual-real-life Bo Obama was allowed into the room.  Cookies were discarded as the First Lady crouched to pet the dog with kids that were only a little taller than dog-head-patting level.

And some of the cookies offered along with hot apple cider to guests were decorated like, yes, Bo.  Even the First Lady said the dog has “been a little confused” with his likeness on display throughout the house.