White House Decks the Halls

The holidays have officially arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed military families to the White House today to unveil this year's holiday decorations and thank them for their sacrifices and service to the country.

"No matter what challenges you all face, during the holidays or any other time during the year, you all just dig a little deeper," she said. "You just get creative and you find ways to make it work, and you do it with such strength and humor and grace."

The First Lady also announced this year's theme: "Gather Around: Stories of the Season."

"This holiday season, we'll be focusing on the stories behind classic American holiday traditions - traditions celebrated here at the White House and across the country. Our goal is for every room and every tree to tell a story about who we are and how we gather around one another to mark the holidays," she explained.

The White House is fully decked out for the holidays and ready to welcome the 70,000 visitors expected this season. Thanks to the help of 83 volunteers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the transformation includes 24 Christmas trees, 450 repurposed books used for decoration, a nearly 300-pound edible gingerbread White House, and thousands of ornaments.

Roughly 1,000 yards of satin ribbon were used to make the moving replicas of dogs Bo and Sunny. "They're mechanical. This is a new step," Mrs. Obama remarked. "We're stepping up in the world of Bo-and-Sunny honoring."

"Although people who visit the White House will see dozens of trees and wreaths … some of the best sights they'll see are kids enjoying all of this just wonderful glory," she said. "Some of the best times in this White House is just watching the faces of kids as they walk through this house and count the trees and look at the ornaments."

After her remarks, Mrs. Obama separated the children from their parents, taking the tots to do some arts and crafts in the State Dining Room.

"I guarantee you we will not lose them - but I can't guarantee you they will come back clean," she joked. "That's the only thing I can't guarantee, so if you want pictures of them clean, do it now."