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White House salutes military families in holiday decorations

WASHINGTON — Amid the festive sparkle of 37 Christmas trees and a 400-pound gingerbread White House, Michelle Obama honored military families as she unveiled her 2011 holiday décor earlier this month.

The "Shine, Give, Share" theme was reflected in the East Room's shimmering quartz ornaments and silvered pine cones in the Entrance Hall. The stately 1767 portrait of Ben Franklin in the Green Room looked curiously at the recycled aluminum trees adorning antique tables.

Two trees honoring military Gold Star families (those who have lost loved ones) and Blue Star families (those with family currently serving) were the focus of Obama's remarks to the military parents, spouses and children gathered for the event.

Then there was Bo, the top dog of the Obamas' Christmas. Whereas the Clintons offered cookies shaped like Socks the cat and the Bushes coaxed their Scottish terrier to star in holiday "Barney cams," the Obamas put a replica of the first dog in every room. There's an eco-friendly topiary Bo made of trash-bag strips in the library, a Bo made of black buttons in the Red Room and many other black-licorice-and-felt Bos throughout the public rooms. And guess who is on the Obama's holiday card this year? Bo — sitting alone by the library hearth, his famous owners nowhere in sight.

"So trust me, our dog has been a little confused walking around the house for the last couple of weeks, seeing himself in gigantic form," Michelle Obama told the crowd.

The White House says it expects to host 85,000 holiday visitors on tours this month and entertain 12,000 volunteers, members of Congress, White House staff, Secret Service personnel and others at parties. Eight artists from the Corcoran College of Art + Design were chosen to illustrate the official 2011 White House holiday guidebook that is handed out to visitors.

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