by Erik Root
Last year I wrote that good taste had returned to the White House in the aesthetic arrangement of Christmas decorations. This year, with the theme “American Treasures” Melania Trump continues to exhibit good taste as, in addition to honoring well established Christian tradition, she also pays homage to “the unique heritage of America” in giving thanks to the American Experiment.
There is one section of the festive presentation that has sent those opposing everything Trump into apoplectic convulsions. The offense this year? The more than 40 crimson topiary trees that line the east colonnade. The red theme, according to the White House, stands for courage, valor, and bravery represented in the presidential seal.
In one sense, and as the White House noted, the trees are also symbolic of our Founding Fathers who understood the great sacrifice before them. As Thomas Paine wrote in The Crisis:
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
According to the first lady, the theme for 2018 “honors the heart and spirit of the American people.” Red represents the sacrifice our our fellow countrymen who sacrificed much and received little from us who are now reaping the blessings of their sacrifice.
The excellent Amelia Florist Wine and Gifts Facebook page (which sent a participant this year’s decorating efforts) explains that most of those chosen to assemble the decorations this year were gold star families, or those who had military service in their family background. That fact makes the red theme in the east colonnade more significant as it draws our attention to the great sacrifice and bravery of the men and women of our armed forces.
These facts did not cause the Left to hit the pause button or to consider whether there was any decent purpose to the arrangement. No. Why let actual facts get in the way of the ongoing narrative of hate? Why let an intention to inspire reflection get in the way of apparently insurmountable ignorance respecting both Christianity and our country’s history?
Instead, the jackals in the media called this homage to our republic a “dystopian nightmare,” symbolic of the bloody elevator from “The Shining”—or something, reminiscent of “A Handmaid’s Tale,” an honor to Putin and Communism (because red is the color of the Left and socialism).
The Washington Post takes the prize for hysteria comparing the cranberry red trees to nuclear holocaust, death, and pestilence. Over at Amelia Florist, some Grinch commenters thought the trees looked “Nazi,” “Creepy,” “a blood bath that is our current White House,” etc. We could go on, but the willful misreading of the intention behind the topiary trees is silly at best.
If we had journalists rather than lazy reactive scribblers, a bit of cursory research (or even some Googling) would have revealed that red (cranberry) trees have been a part of the White House decor this time of year for a long time. Moreover, if they headed over to their local department store perhaps that they might notice the Christmas displays are, overwhelmingly . . . red?
None of that matters to these angry children with keyboards, however, when Melania Trump does it. If she does it, it must be wrong. It must be hate.
For the Eastern Orthodox, the Nativity Fast prepares us for the awareness of great sacrifice of His life. Red signifies the blood shed by Jesus Christ for our sins. It is perhaps no accident that the hallway is adorned by 40 of these trees suggesting a biblical connotation. (Here’s a tip for woke young keyboard activists: check out “the number 40 and its significance to Christians.”)
And what of the material used to adorn the trees in the east colonnade: cranberries? They have long been a staple of the season. In fact, the Library of Congress noted that the fruit has been a part of our American history for hundreds of years, especially during the winter holidays. It was Ulysses S. Grant who ordered they be served with the holiday meal in 1864. Cranberries represent religiously the blood shed by Christ at the crucifixion, but also secularly the red suit of Santa Claus and the spirit of giving.
The significance of red and the use of cranberries like we see in the many trees in the White House are also tied into patriotic themes. It is no coincidence that red adorns our flag, after all. We ought to have the courage and wisdom to recognize that this symbolism at once pays homage to the fact that the freedom of our salvation and our earthly political freedom are bought with great sacrifice.
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Erik Root, Ph.D is a writer living in North Carolina.
Photo “Red Christmas” by White House.