Each year, approximately 150 volunteers from across the nation decorate the White House for the holiday season, with at least one individual appointed to represent each state. Olive Branch native Valerie Cox represented Mississippi and traveled to Washington, D.C., before Thanksgiving to transform the people’s house into a Christmas wonderland. After learning about the opportunity from a previous White House decorating volunteer, Cox applied through handwritten letters and emails several times throughout the year.
“I applied in October. I had written several letters and sent a few emails throughout the year. I’m not exactly sure which one did the trick, the application or the letters, but I found out the first week in November that I had been selected to be a White House volunteer,” Cox said.
Cox received word that she had been selected as a White House decorating volunteer at the beginning of November 2022 and arrived in Washington, D.C., days before Thanksgiving. For the 2022 holiday season, the First Lady’s White House décor captures the spirit embodied in the very idea of America: We the People. Decorations aimed to represent optimism and community.
“It was a very organized process,” Cox explained. “Our team was on the ground floor and did the Diplomatic Reception Room, the Library, the Vermeil Room, and the China Room.”
Throughout the White House, the décor represents what brings us together during the holidays and throughout the year. The State Dining Room embodies the next generation through ornaments created by self-portraits of students from across the country. The Gold Star trees honor the heroic men and women of our Nation’s military who have laid down their lives for our country and their families who carry their legacy. The Gingerbread House includes a sugar cookie replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, the birthplace of the United States. The Vermeil Room represents how we show appreciation for each other and give back to our communities – showing the importance of small acts of kindness. The Cross Hall features a new White House menorah constructed using wood from the renovation that took place in 1950. The China Room honors the family traditions and recipes passed down through generations.
Cox’s favorite decoration was a garland of family recipes from the volunteers’ families, with Cox contributing her Grandma Cox’s apple cranberry crunch recipe. “It was fun to see what recipes represented the different parts of the country,” shared Cox. “There were even several apple crunch recipes. It was neat to compare!” “It was just fun to see that we all are united, even in the food we eat. We are more alike than we are different no matter what part of America you live in,” Cox stated.
Thanks to the help of the 150 volunteers, including Cox, the White House décor features: 77 Christmas trees, 25 wreathes, 12,000 ornaments, 15,000 feet of ribbon, 1,6000 bells, and 84,000 holiday lights!
Grandma Cox’s Apple Cranberry Crunch
- 3 cups chopped apples with peeling
- 2 cups whole cranberries
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups quick oats
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
- 1/2 cup melted margarine
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine the chopped apples, cranberries, and sugar in a 9×13 casserole dish. Combine the quick oats, brown sugar, flour, pecans, and margarine and put on top of the first ingredients. Bake for 1 hour or until bubbles in the middle.
**Cox prefers Granny Smith apples… the tartness goes well with the cranberries.