White House Christmas

While President Obama was out for a shopping trip on Wednesday afternoon, my family got the chance to tour the White House and see the holiday decorations set up this year at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

For those wondering, it was the first time in 15 years that I had received an invite from the White House for a Christmas reception; the last time I went in 1996, the stampede by reporters for the free food was so ridiculous that the roster of invitees was trimmed the next year to prevent a repeat.

(If you have never seen reporters rush for a table of free food, you have missed one of the great scenes in all of nature.)

So, after 15 years of not making the cut, it was fun to take the kids to the White House, even if we had no chance of seeing the President or the First Lady - or anyone halfway important.

If you haven't been to the White House, the one thing that strikes you immediately is how small it seems.

The East Room - used by a President for formal news conferences and official events - is not large by any standards. But it has a great feel with the Christmas decorations all around.

Walking across the White House, there is a large tree in the Blue Room, with all kinds of ornaments.

On the other end of the White House is the State Dining Room, which features a large painting of Abraham Lincoln.

Here is a picture of the decorations in the Cross Hall, the hallway that connects the State Dining Room and the East Room.

During our self-guided tour, there was a piano player setting the mood for all of the visitors, playing under the watchful eye of a painting of President Bill Clinton.

This photo is from the Entrance Hall just inside the North Portico.

While walking inside, there were some great views out the windows of the White House - this is to the south, towards the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial.

Finally we all ended up outside on a rainy, but warm December day. And there was one of my colleagues, Dave McConnell of WTOP-FM in Washington, D.C.

Dave is the dean of the Radio-TV correspondents on Capitol Hill; he has been covering Congress since the 1960's and has been a great friend and colleague during the 25 years that I have covered the Congress.

A good time was had by all at the White House.

Merry Christmas 2011.

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