White House Invites All To 'Gather Around' A Holiday Tradition

Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, almost 100 volunteer decorators show up at the White House. They spend the next five days stringing garlands and hanging ornaments, making the White House sparkle for the holidays.

At NPR, we have a related tradition. This is the fourth year in a row that White House correspondent Ari Shapiro has brought us the voices of some of those volunteers.

In a few weeks he will fly to London and become our newest international correspondent. Before he does, let's take one last tour through the White House Christmas decorations.

  • Holiday decorations are displayed in the State Dining Room of the White House during an event to preview the 2013 holiday decorations on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
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    Holiday decorations are displayed in the State Dining Room of the White House during an event to preview the 2013 holiday decorations on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
    Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • First lady Michelle Obama hugs a girl at the State Dining Room of the White House.
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    First lady Michelle Obama hugs a girl at the State Dining Room of the White House.
    Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • Holiday decorations in the China Room.
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    Holiday decorations in the China Room.
    Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • Press photographers take pictures of the White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room of the White House. The 18.5-foot Douglas fir from Lehighton, Pa., features decorations honoring military families.
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    Press photographers take pictures of the White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room of the White House. The 18.5-foot Douglas fir from Lehighton, Pa., features decorations honoring military families.
    Charles Dharapak/AP
  • The names of fallen soldiers hang from branches in the East Entrance Landing.
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    The names of fallen soldiers hang from branches in the East Entrance Landing.
    Jacquelyn Martin/AP
  • This year's theme is "Gather Around."
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    This year's theme is "Gather Around."
    Jacquelyn Martin/AP
  • The hallway off the China Room drips with holiday cheer.
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    The hallway off the China Room drips with holiday cheer.
    Jim Watson/AFP
  • This year's White House holiday cookies included Bo and Sunny, the Obama family dogs.
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    This year's White House holiday cookies included Bo and Sunny, the Obama family dogs.
    Charles Dharapak/AP
  • Sunny and Bo show up in more decorations by the east wall of East Garden Room. This year the dogs have animatronic features.
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    Sunny and Bo show up in more decorations by the east wall of East Garden Room. This year the dogs have animatronic features.
    Jacquelyn Martin/AP
  • A 300-pound gingerbread White House is the centerpiece at a table in the State Dining Room.
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    A 300-pound gingerbread White House is the centerpiece at a table in the State Dining Room.
    Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

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A Gold Star Volunteer Brings Memories Of Her Son

Gold Star Mother Mary Byers came from Nashville, Tenn., to help decorate the White House for the holidays. i i
Ari Shapiro/NPR
Gold Star Mother Mary Byers came from Nashville, Tenn., to help decorate the White House for the holidays.
Ari Shapiro/NPR

Volunteer Mary Byers became a Gold Star Mother after she lost her son, Capt. Josh Byers, to an IED in Iraq. She came from Nashville, Tenn., to decorate the White House on the 10-year anniversary of his death.

"It's amazing. It's been an honor to be able to be a part of this," she says. "When I arrived to begin, I didn't know I would be assigned to the Gold Star tree, and chills went all over me when I was first told."

The tree is all patriotic, she says, "Red, white and blue. We've got little ornaments representing each branch of the military, and then families get to come in and make their ornament with their fallen hero's name."

This year, one of those ornaments bears her son's name.

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