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The 2017 White House Christmas tree arrived from Wisconsin on Monday, November 20.

First Lady Melania Trump and 11-year-old Barron Trump received the tree, which was placed in the Blue Room.

The Chapman family, owners of Silent Night Evergreens in Endeavor, Wisconsin, won this year’s National Christmas Tree Association contest and, by virtue of that, supplied the White House tree.

The Daily Mail has more.

A military band played O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum, my late father’s favourite carol) before the arrival of the horse-drawn carriage:

The building to the right in that video is the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where the vice president and cabinet officials have their offices.

Barron is taller than his mother, who was wearing high-heeled knee-high leather boots:

Mrs Trump spoke with the Chapmans before she and Barron posed for a photograph:

This video shows how many men it took to unload and take the tree indoors:

It looks as if there is also — in another room — a huge gingerbread representation of the White House, baked and assembled by the pastry chefs (click on each of the top two photos):

It is interesting that this year’s White House ornament (below) honours a Democrat. That said, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the longest serving US president. He died in office, but many Americans thought his four-term tenure was turning him into a dictator. In 1947, Congress passed the 22nd Amendment,  restricting a president to two terms. The 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified in 1951.

Tree, sugar sculpture, wreaths and ornaments aside, for the first time in several years, a nativity scene will be on display in the White House.

The Trumps are making Christmas great again.

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Best wishes to my American readers for a very happy Thanksgiving! May you have an abundance of food and fun.

On Tuesday, November 21, 2017, President Donald Trump pardoned his first Thanksgiving turkeys, Drumstick, which weighs 47 pounds, and Wishbone, a 36-pounder:

Drumstick and understudy Wishbone spent Monday night at the luxurious Willard Hotel in Washington, as per turkey pardon tradition, before visiting the White House:

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders enjoyed the experience with one of her children:

The First Family also enjoyed the event. The Daily Mail has great photos of Trump children and grandchildren.

The video of the pardon is worth watching for history, jokes and, on a serious note, thanks to the American people. First Lady Melania Trump and First Son Barron, 11, joined the US president:

Although Trump read off a teleprompter, his delivery was spot on. Excerpts from his remarks follow (emphases mine):

… I’m especially pleased that we’re joined for this great occasion by Carl Wittenburg, Chairman of the National Turkey Federation, along with his wife, Sharlene, and sons, Nate and Wyatt.

It was 70 years ago that the National Turkey Federation first presented the National Thanksgiving Turkey to President Harry Truman — who, I might add, did not grant the pardon. He refused. He was a tough cookie. (Laughter.) Today, I’m going to be a much nicer President.

Over the past 10 months, Melania and I have had the pleasure of welcoming many, many special visitors to the great White House. We’ve hosted dozens of incredible world leaders, members of Congress, and, along the way, a few very strange birds. But we have yet to receive any visitors quite like our magnificent guest of honor today — Drumstick. Hi, Drumstick. Oh, Drumstick, I think, is going to be very happy …

Drumstick was raised on Carl and Sharlene’s turkey farm in Douglas County, Minnesota, with the help of five young women from the Douglas County 4-H chapter who are here with us today. And I want to say, great work. Where are they? Please stand. Great job you’ve done. (Applause.) 4-H. That’s great. Thank you.

Upon being pardoned, Drumstick and his friend, Wishbone, will live out their days at “Gobbler’s Rest” — beautiful place. It’s custom-built; it’s an enclosure on the campus of Virginia Tech. Tremendous school. There, they’ll join Tater and Tot, the two turkeys pardoned last year by President Obama.

As many of you know, I have been very active in overturning a number of executive actions by my predecessor. However, I have been informed by the White House Counsel’s Office that Tater and Tot’s pardons cannot, under any circumstances, be revoked. So we’re not going to revoke them. So, Tater and Tot, you can rest easy.

I’d also like to thank the National Turkey Federation for bringing along two other turkeys from Jaindl’s Turkey Farm in Orefield, Pennsylvania — the great state of Pennsylvania. We’re donating these turkeys to Martha’s Table, a truly fantastic charity right here in Washington D.C., which provides warm meals to people in need. They do a fantastic job.

Before we get to the pardon, I would like to take a moment to extend our very heartfelt special message: Thanks. Thanks, folks — to the finest and bravest people in the entire world, our great men and women in uniform: the military, law enforcement, first responders. These are incredible people. So, thank you.

Many of you are always — and you know your loved ones — and you’re far away, and you spend so much time away. This Thanksgiving, I want each of you to know that we’re forever grateful for the incredible job and for the incredible sacrifices that you and your families make in defense of our nation, our freedom, and our truly great American flag.

I’d also like to express my thanks to the wonderful citizens of our country — the people who care for our communities, raise America’s children, uphold our laws and our values, and make this amazing land into our national home …

And now I think Drumstick and Wishbone would be very thankful if we would just get around to the pardon. They say,

“Enough talk, please pardon us.”

So I want to thank everybody for being here today and wish everybody a very, very happy Thanksgiving — very special people[,] a very special country.

Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause.)

Given the political climate in the United States, the pardons gave rise to humour:

Earlier in the day, Trump spoke with Vladimir Putin for over an hour, discussing a variety of topics.

Before departing the White House to spend Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago, he spoke with the press, who, for the most part, badgered him with their usual stupid questions. However, someone did ask about his conversation with Putin:

We had a great call with President Putin. We’re talking about peace in Syria — very important. We’re talking about North Korea. We had a call that lasted almost an hour and a half. We’ve just put out a release on the call. But we’re talking very strongly about bringing peace for Syria. We’re talking about very strongly about North Korea and Ukraine.

Another reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving. Great things are happening in the United States — and the world.

Enough bad news for one week.

Let’s look at the solar eclipse as seen at the White House.

The day before, First Lady Melania Trump wore a dress suggesting the sun’s rays:

On Monday, August 21, 2017, she wore black:

President Donald Trump dared to look at the sun — momentarily:

The First Couple then donned appropriate eyewear:

First Son Barron, 11, joined his parents:

Vice President Mike Pence was at the Naval Observatory:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions marvelled at the sight of the eclipse:

Here’s a dramatic photo:

The solar eclipse had one detractor. What on earth is wrong with these people?

Someone said this was the best eclipse ever. Clever.

The eclipse was visible from coast to coast, from Madras, Oregon to Columbia, South Carolina. Melissa Chan wrote about more about the event for Time:

The rare celestial spectacle on Aug. 21 has a trajectory exclusive to the U.S. for the first time since the nation’s birth in 1776. It’s also the first total eclipse of the sun that will be visible from the contiguous U.S. since 1979.

For those who do not know, 1776 was the year of American independence.

The Atlantic examined the biblical significance of eclipses as signs of judgement in both the Old and the New Testament, notably at the Crucifixion.

Eclipses are far from being rare occurrences. The Atlantic article says they take place every year and a half. What makes them rare is that they occur in different places, so one is likely to see only one or two in a lifetime. The eclipse of 2010 was visible in the South Pacific. Perhaps some of my readers saw it.

The Atlantic points out that eclipses provoke powerful reactions:

Eclipse viewers are susceptible to emotional responses to solar eclipses, whether they view them as natural phenomena or heavenly wonders. Feelings of fear and awe fall along the same spectrum, and the splendor of astronomical events can sometimes blur the lines.

An Infowars reporter, Millie Weaver, has been crossing the United States doing reports on Flyover Country. She was in Spring City, Tennessee for the eclipse. This is a wonderful video which explores the beauty — and unity — that she and people from the South experienced:

Afterwards, she interviewed two university students from Alabama (near the end of the video). One quipped about the sun being returned to them because Trump negotiated a deal. It turns out that, centuries ago, rulers would tell their people that they could have the sun back after an eclipse if they did what they were told to do.

Americans who missed this eclipse don’t have long to wait for the next one. It will be on April 8, 2024 and will be visible from Maine to Texas, via the industrial heartland states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.

It is quite possible that Trump will be the first American president to be in office during two solar eclipses in the US.

You can read more about the 2017 eclipse at Time and at the NASA site.

First Lady Melania Trump and President Donald Trump hosted the 139th Easter Egg Roll at the White House on Monday, April 17, 2017.

The Easter Egg Roll falls under the first lady’s remit. Mrs Trump carefully researched the history of the event and decided to return to tradition.

CNN had a good, if biased, article on how this developed. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

“She wanted to get back to the tradition, so we’re bringing back some traditional elements, like military bands, and focusing on the family itself,” Stephanie Grisham, Melania Trump’s communications director, told CNN.

Those traditional elements include the egg roll, an egg dying station, a cookie decorating station, an art wall, a thank-you card station where children can write notes to troops and veterans, and a reading nook …

Tickets were allocated to schools, children’ hospitals and military and law enforcement families, as well as the families of White House staff, according to [Press Secretary Sean] Spicer.

Planning an egg roll is a tricky balancing act, a collaboration between the East Wing, the White House Visitors’ Office, and volunteers …

Wells Wood Turning crafted 18,000 custom commemorative wooden eggs that will be given to each child in attendance. They arrived at the White House last week in five colors, including, naturally, a shiny gold.

Here are the eggs. Note the similarity in the first couple’s signatures:

CNN also gave us the history behind this popular — and very visible — White House event:

The egg rolling tradition began in the 1870s on Capitol grounds. After a particularly rotten 1876 roll, President Ulysses S. Grant signed legislation to protect Capitol grounds, which prohibited egg rolling, per the National Archives.

But in 1878, President Rutherford B. Hayes allowed children to roll their eggs on the White House South Lawn, and 139 years later, the tradition continues.

It’s always been quite a production for the first lady’s office.

Florence Harding wore a feathered hat in 1922. Grace Coolidge brought her pet raccoon, Rebecca, in 1927. Eleanor Roosevelt oversaw the egg roll during her husband’s four terms in office, including 1937, when more than 50,000 children attended.

The tradition of the costumed Easter Bunny began with a Pat Nixon staff member in 1969, per the White House Historical Association.

Spicer has a history with the Egg Roll himself: as a staffer in the George W. Bush administration, he was the man inside the Easter bunny suit.

With a new administration this year and not many staff in place, the planning time was short. Wells Wood Turning of Buckfield, Maine contacted the White House on February 20 to say that they needed to know how many eggs to make because time was running out.

Mrs Trump also had a skeleton staff at that point, so all hands were on deck. The White House engaged the services of event planning company Harbinger, which has organised events for a wide array of clients. The Obamas used C3 Presents.

That said, hundreds of volunteers are needed every year for the Egg Roll. After all, 21,000 people were expected this year. Easter baskets must be filled with a variety of sweet treats and other fun items. Four hundred volunteers, most of whom live locally, showed up on Holy Saturday to organise the gifts and work on other aspects of the event:

Part of the prep happened this Saturday, when 100 or so volunteers worked elbow-to-elbow in a fenced-in, tented portion of the Ellipse, behind the South Lawn of the White House. Creating a lengthy assembly line, they spent hours stuffing candy, coloring books and commemorative eggs into goodie bags for families attending the roll.

According to a source who participated in the preparation the weekend, the volunteers — many holdovers from years’ past and former administrations — arrived at 10 a.m. ET, working alongside Visitors Office and Social Office staffers. Truckloads of donated products were unpacked, grouped and placed into their designated spots, said one volunteer team leader. The items included arts and crafts supplies, as well as non-perishable foods. And yes, the source confirmed, there were also Peeps.

Peeps are a marshmallow Easter candy, most of which are coated with brightly coloured sugar.

Everything is carefully planned and diligently executed:

By the end of the afternoon, thousands of bags were completed, with the goal each child will receive a souvenir goodie bag and commemorative egg, added the source.

“Everyone at the White House is very excited about (Monday’s) Easter Egg Roll. Preparations are continuing through the weekend to ensure that every child who attends has a positive experience they’ll remember for years to come,” said Grisham.

Whereas Mrs Obama favoured popular music at the Easter Egg Roll, Mrs Trump scaled such music back, preferring to bring back the military bands from older Easter Monday events.

CNN says that special thanks go to Rickie Niceta Lloyd, Mrs Trump’s social secretary and the White House Visitors Office which organised four orientation sessions for the volunteers beforehand.

The next few tweets give us a glimpse of what went on over Easter weekend:

This was the graphic for the event. The bunnies have wooden spoons in their paws, because egg rolling contestants need them to push the eggs to the finishing line (see below):

It had rained and the ground was damp. Nevertheless, there was a rainbow, which impressed ‘Teddy Roosevelt’:

By the time the Trumps appeared on the balcony, the lawn had a crowd awaiting the official opening of the event:

President Trump introduced the event, followed by the the first lady:

Watch Mrs Trump nudge her husband to put his hand over his heart for the National Anthem, performed by the United States Marine Corps band. I saw another clip of this and Barron was first, closely followed by his mother:

Journalists covered the event for television. CNN’s Jim Acosta shared a laugh with a Mutant Ninja Turtle:

However, Today‘s Al Roker, who is the NBC morning show’s weatherman and co-host, appeared less amused. I think he is still angry Hillary lost:

One boy had Acosta’s number. As Acosta gave a live report, the lad on the left kept mouthing ‘Fake News!’ The video below should go straight to the 17-second mark (H/T: The Conservative Treehouse):

If that gets taken down, Newsbusters has a copy.

The following video from Fox News 10 in Phoenix shows how crowded the White House lawn was. President Trump turns up at the 27:52 mark to have pictures taken with guests. He also signed hats and programmes:

In the following video, jump to the 17:25 mark to watch the first Egg Roll of 2017. It only lasts 20 seconds:

Here’s a view from the finishing line:

The First Family was present at the starting line for the first Egg Roll. Trump’s daughter Tiffany (Marla Maples’s daughter) is in the pink dress and son Eric (Ivana Trump) is between Mrs Trump and Barron:

The Trumps went on to engage with their young guests:

Happy days bring happy experiences. The photo below appears thanks to The Truth Division and The_Donald:

 

The two clearly enjoyed each other’s company (click on top left photo below). (Donald Trump Jr, his wife and daughter are in the same photo. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln characters are in the baseball shirts, top right. Al Roker continues to be unamused, bottom left.)

Eric Trump and his wife Lara Lee brought along their dogs.

The American Egg Board supplied hen’s fruit (top left) and a fun display, An Egg’s Journey (top right):

Bro4 provided popular music. Martin Family Circus also entertained the guests.

Mrs Trump managed to persuade her husband’s press secretary and much of the cabinet to follow her lead in reading to the children in the Reading Nook. She chose Party Animals by Kathie Lee Gifford, wherein different animals find out how much they have in common. Mrs Trump said it was a particular favourite:

Press Secretary Sean Spicer read How to Catch the Easter Bunny with young Joshua, the only one in the audience who knew the story:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions read It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny, accompanied by his wife and four of their grandchildren:

Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Dr Ben Carson, accompanied by his wife and granddaughter, read The Grouchy Ladybug:

General Kellogg read Giraffes Can’t Dance. He did a great job, too:

Education Secretary Betsy De Vos and Counsellor to the President Kellyanne Conway also read to the youngsters. Conway chose God Gave Us Easter. Mrs De Vos, with one of her grandchildren, gathered the children up closely around her.

Military bands, the boy band and the circus act performed on the Bunny Hop Stage.

The United States Army Band chose traditional songs that the many of the children would not have heard before as well as better known numbers:

The Air Force Band and their Singing Sergeants brought an accomplished bluegrass air to proceedings:

First Son Barron, who turned 11 on Monday, March 20, is as tall as his mother:

I also hope this was a great success for First Lady Melania Trump. I am especially pleased that she blended the traditional with the contemporary so well, ensuring that Easter Monday was a delightful day out for all her guests.

President Donald Trump and his family attended an Easter service at Palm Beach’s Episcopal church, Bethesda-by-the-Sea, on April 16, 2017.

The Palm Beach Post tells us:

Bethesda-by-the-Sea was founded in 1889, making it the first church in Palm Beach County and the oldest Protestant church in South Florida. The rectory was designed by Marion Sims Wyeth, who also drew the plans for the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee and the original Norton Museum of Art, according to the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.

The church’s architecture, dozens of stained-glass windows and gardens make it a popular spot for weddings and photo shoots.

It is a beautiful church, in line with most Episcopal houses of worship in the United States, as the following tweets will demonstrate.

I also enjoyed looking at members of the congregation. They remind me of the people I attended church with during my young adulthood in an Episcopal church. I miss them! (We are quite scruffy here in England when it comes to Sunday worship.)

Bethesda-by-the-Sea is the Trumps’ church:

Trump has a history with the church: He married first lady Melania there in 2005, and his youngest son, Barron, was christened there. The Trumps attended the most recent Christmas Eve service at Bethesda-by-the-Sea, receiving a standing ovation as they entered the sanctuary. Last Easter, the president, first lady and Barron attended the church’s 11 a.m. Sunday service.

And when Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, visited Mar-a-Lago in February, the first lady included a trip with Akie Abe to Bethesda-by-the-Sea as part of her hosting.

This is a good photo of the interior:

The Palm Beach Post advised people wishing to go to the 11 a.m. service — the one the first family attended — to make arrangements to show up early because of security arrangements. Easter services are crowded anyway, and nearly everyone who regularly attends Bethesda-by-the-Sea shows up for worship.

This is how the morning of April 16 went at the church, thanks to the tweets from Aleese Kopf, reporter for the Palm Beach Daily News — a.k.a. The Shiny Sheet, because of the smooth paper.

The Sun Sentinel shows the Trumps’ arrival. Daughter Tiffany (mother Marla Maples, second wife) holds a pink handbag:

The next set of tweets comes from Michael Delauzon, who works at the White House.

The first family entered from a door near the pulpit and the altar.

The rector, The Rev. James Harlan, greeted them:

The man in front of Barron is not the president. He is likely to be Melania’s father:

 

The president has the aisle seat.

In ‘UPDATES: Trump attends Easter service at Palm Beach church‘, the Palm Beach Post reported that a well-dressed, concerned but polite protester had been along the route to the church. She held up a pro-immigrant sign asking that Trump express concern for them. As if Donald Trump doesn’t know about immigrants! The Palm Beach Post surmised she probably went unnoticed by the first family.

The article went on to say:

A block away, the president, first lady Melania Trump and their son Barron; Trump’s daughter, Tiffany; and the first lady’s parents entered the church for 11 a.m. services from a series of tents erected to give the family privacy. 

The Rev. James Harlan, the church’s rector, gave a welcome message before the service with instructions on receiving communion- and turning off cell phones and cameras …

Trump left after taking communion. The first family planned to brunch at Mar-a-Lago with Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., followed by an afternoon Easter egg hunt. 

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s director of communications, provided the photo of Mar-a-Lago:

The Trumps left later that day to return to Washington, DC.

The Palm Beach Daily News has more.

Tomorrow I hope to have a post about the Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn, which took place on Monday, April 17.

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