Long before Christmas, four neat little potted cedars were placed on either side of the White House front door. The "public" Christmas tree, a ten-foot Norwegian spruce glistening with artificial snow and icicles, was set up in the East Room before the broad French windows. On wintery Washington evenings the old house looked like something on a Christmas card—its white expanse gleaming in the shadows, the mellow, warm light from its windows shining through the ancient, weatherbeaten oaks and maples. Poinsettias replaced the ferns in the hallways; wreaths of spruce and pine...

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