Anyone thinking of getting drunk at a White House Christmas party these next few weeks, or even President Trump on one of his nocturnal ambles, should be warned: The East Colonnade has become the most terrifying domestic space in America.
Melania Trump, with what looks like the help of Tim Burton, has designed an anti-Christmas wonderland of white branches set stark against the wall and casting creepy shadows on the ceiling, leading to—at the end of the corridor—in the East Garden Room, a traditional Christmas tree bathed in golden light.
The only thing missing is a dragon breathing fire, intent on stopping you getting your hands on a magic amulet.
Melania’s press secretary Stephanie Grisham captured the Colonnade at its most ghoulish, in the pitch-black with the white plants lit from beneath, casting the kinds of shadows on the ceiling that would definitely become spindly living fingers in a horror movie.
Indeed, one Twitter user completed the look with the Babadook.
Others mourned what had happened to the same corridor, decorated what seems a long time ago in a considerably warmer manner.
But Melania Trump sees only joy. She revealed the decorations in a tweet yesterday.
“The decorations are up! @WhiteHouse is ready to celebrate! Wishing you a Merry Christmas & joyous holiday season!” she wrote, and in an accompanying video she stood, with coat draped on shoulders contemplating decorations, ribbons, the branches of verdant Christmas trees.
There was a giant White House Christmas cake, a nativity scene, and ballet dancers who turned up to perform in the middle of the big reveal of the decorations, paying tribute to the first-ever themed White House Christmas, which was the Nutcracker Suite in 1961.
Melania eyed the ballet dancers suspiciously, which is fair enough. Anyone who has ever decorated a Christmas tree—essentially, a wrestling match with no ring or referee, and the ever-present likelihood of sustaining serious injury forcing colored lights over springy pine branches—knows the last thing you would want while engaged in this annual, sweaty, stress-inducing endurance test are two dancers executing a pas de deux in front of you.
“Just help with me the damned lights,” you whimper at any passing human, not, “That’s the perfect pirouette to match my mood! Thank you!”
No matter: Melania wants people to feel they are “home for the holidays” when they visit the White House. She appeared among the trees in a white Dior frock, with huge, cape-like sleeves, and gold stilettos. Children from Joint Base Andrews, one of whom opined that Melania looked like an angel, were engaged in arts-and-crafting beside trees in the Red Room and Green Room; there is also a Gold Star Family Tree in honor of those serving in the military and their loved ones.
The theme of the White House decorations, apparently: “time-honored traditions,” to celebrate 200 years of Christmas celebrations at the White House.
The décor, it has been reported, includes 71 wreaths, 53 Christmas trees, more than 18,000 lights, more than 12,000 ornaments, more than 3,100 yards of ribbon and more than 1,000 feet of garland. The windows of the White House will be festooned with wreaths.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the video of Melania taking charge of this twinkling extravaganza emerged at the same time as a Vanity Fair article showing her to be a reticent first lady at best.
In the video, the business of Christmas, as so much else, appears to be being imposed upon her. Yet it also provides the opportunity to show her at her most homely.
Yet the picture of her and son Barron welcoming a Christmas tree, conveyed via horse and cart, shows two people eyeing this enticing cargo not with excited glee, but with the wary caution of relatives welcoming a troublesome cousin.
The Vanity Fair piece makes clear that Melania has less staff in the East Wing than Michelle Obama, and that it has taken some time for her to occupy and own the role. The decorations feel part of an effort to force the White House alive, given the demands of what visitors want to see when they visit at Christmas. In reality, the spooky darkness of the East Colonnade speaks of the present White House a little too literally.
Still, in the interests of economizing, Melania could definitely keep the East Colonnade as a Halloween attraction.