How to Become a White House Volunteer

Decorate the White House for Christmas

The tradition of decorating the White House for Christmas has a rich history that can be traced all the way back to 1889. It was then, during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison, that the first Christmas tree was displayed in the Oval Room. Since then, the simple act of placing a Christmas tree in the White House has evolved into a national tradition much larger in scale.

It was in 1929 that the tradition became an official White House event and since then the First Ladies have been responsible for decorating. Jackie Kennedy was the first to introduce a theme, a tradition that is still carried out today [source: Harris]. Then in 1973, the Nixon's opened the doors of the White House to volunteers who helped decorate for the Christmas season [source: Clinton]. Tens of thousands of visitors tour the White House every holiday season to see the decorations.

Volunteers come from all over the country and many of them are florists who own their own businesses. One way to volunteer is to contact the White House and find out what florists will be volunteering their time. If there is a florist near you, you can offer your assistance and ask to come along. If that isn't the case, you can also try writing to the White House Chief of Staff or the First Lady, making a strong case for your selection as a volunteer. Don't worry about writing too early either, holiday planning starts getting under way almost a year in advance.

Many Christmas volunteers are lucky in that they repeatedly get to provide their services. For example, florist George Griffith and Tom O'Brien, owners of a florist shop, have been volunteering during the holiday decorating season at the White House for more than 20 years [source: Griffith].

If you still want to try to make your mark inside the White House, you could always design a Christmas tree decoration in the hopes that it will hang on one of the many Christmas trees that grace the White House and its grounds during the holiday season. If not, keep in mind that your time would be equally appreciated by a local organization that is seeking volunteers.

To learn more about volunteering, visit the links on the following page.

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  • Clinton, Hillary Rodham. "Talking It Over." NARA. Dec. 8, 1999. (Accessed 5/5/2009)
  • Griffith, Randy. "Local florists help deck White House halls." The Tribune-Democrat. (Accessed 5/13/09)
  • Harris, Angela. "History of the White House Christmas Tree." Associate Content. Dec. 16, 2007. (Accessed 5/5/2009)
  • NARA. "White House Facts." (Accessed 5/5/2009)
  • Serve. "Welcome!" (Accessed 5/5/2009)
  • White House. "White House Internship Program Application." (Accessed 5/5/2009)
  • White House. "White House Internship Program." (Accessed 5/5/2009)