Laura Bush Debuts Traditional White House Christmas Decor

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A year after experimenting with fresh flower decorations, the White House is returning to a more traditional Christmas look for its 24 holiday parties.

First Lady Laura Bush told reporters the White House's Red Room was the inspiration for the 2006 holiday theme — "Deck the Halls and Welcome All." Almost 300 wreaths are on display, in addition to poinsettias, topiaries and a variety of garlands adorned with red and silver Christmas balls.

"This is a beautiful old house to decorate for Christmas and since red is one of the predominant colors it really is perfect for Christmas decorations," she told reporters while standing in front of the traditional 300-pound gingerbread White House on display in the State Dining Room.

The State Floor's centerpiece is a Douglas fir covered in glass and crystal ornaments — some tied up with red ribbons — as well as a smattering of fake snow. The first lady pointed out that the Blue Room's chandelier was removed to secure the 18-foot, 6-inch tree.

She said the first family had already decorated a private tree with ornaments they brought from Texas. They also have a collection of nativity scenes the first lady has collected from around the world.

"It looks very beautiful — a lot of Christmas ornaments that we've had since Barbara and Jenna were born 25 years ago," she said.

The president and first lady plan four dinners, one lunch and 19 receptions for the holidays. Although the decor is classic, the White House's holiday menu will feature both traditional and "not-so-traditonal" American cuisine, said chef Cristeta Comerford.

The reception menu will include: golden and crimson beet salad with orange, fennel and feta; sweet potato souffle; herb roasted lollipop lamb chops and chicken fried beef tenderloin with white onion gravy — a particular favorite, the first lady said.

When asked if calorie counting factored into menu planning, she responded, "not at all."