It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Written by: Shari Thorne-Sulima, DAR Property Beautification and Hospitality Committee National Chair and Jessica Grainger, Holiday Open House Vice Chair
December 5, 2019

Decking the DAR halls takes months of advance planning, a dedicated Holiday Open House Vice Chair and many volunteer “elves.”  The Chair of the DAR Property Beautification and Hospitality Committee is responsible for the outdoor decorations, including illumination and landscaping.  Homestead Gardens of Davidsonville, Maryland, with whom negotiations began in the summer, is the company that transformed the exterior of our House Beautiful into a Winter Wonderland just before Thanksgiving. 

The exterior hall-decking process starts when our Society’s maintenance department unpacks the tree and all of the other decorations from deep inside our DAR headquarters in time for the landscaper to work its holiday magic.  A large lift with a 60-foot boom (stationed on C Street where our Continental Congress buses park) is delivered to enable the landscaper to hang the outdoor decorations – all in just a few days!  Their crew drapes several miles of white fairy lights throughout our Holly trees and Taxus Yews.  In order to avoid stunting the growth of our gracious Magnolia trees, each tree is rewrapped with new strings of lights every two years to allow for proper limb expansion.  (Yes, it’s safe to leave the lights on our trees throughout this time until they are rewrapped!)  Shiny new bows to adorn the large wreaths that hang between our columns on 17th and 18th Streets are created by the landscape designers.  The 20-foot Grand Teton artificial evergreen is assembled, safely cabled down and displayed so that her lovely branches sparkle toward the White House and Ellipse. 

When finally lit up in her holiday best, our House Beautiful rises up on 17th Street and shines brightly, beckoning all to venture inside to enjoy the warmth and hospitality that DAR joyously shares. 

Once visitors cross our threshold, not only do they find warmth from the cold, they also discover beautiful holiday decorations at every turn – all that were months in the making. The planning actually began back in August, when volunteers were solicited; in September, the Holiday Open House Vice Chair and her committee took a trip to basement storage to catalog all of the interior decorations. A few weeks ago, the maintenance department delivered all of those decorations, including several large trees, upstairs in preparation for our “decorating days.” 

The interior decorating took place over the course of two days in late November, just before the rush of the Thanksgiving holiday.  Over that Friday and Saturday, a team of approximately two dozen volunteer elves spent about eight hours each day completing various decorating tasks, including setting up trees, wrapping staircases with garland, hanging swags in the DAR Library and placing wreaths throughout the building.  While hauling out the holly, we were meeting new friends, enjoying each other’s company and bonding over our shared love of the holiday season. 

By the end of Saturday, the results were stunning:  Four lovingly decorated trees; a beautiful DAR Library, adorned with swags, bows and shiny poinsettias; staircases wrapped with evergreens and bright gold ribbon; and doors throughout our halls adorned with wreaths.  A special “thank you” to the Secret Santas who donated sunfish ornaments for the DAR School Committee tree and the many crafty elves who created the firefly ornaments for that of the Junior Membership Committee.

The final step of the interior decorating process will occur two days before the Open House, when more than 100 gorgeous poinsettias will be delivered.  These will be placed throughout the building, including in the DAR Library, the Pennsylvania Foyer and the O’Byrne Gallery.  When in place, the poinsettias will be the finishing touch that caps off a four-month journey – a journey that leads to our House Beautiful shining inside and out for our Holiday Open House during this festive season. 

Daughters and guests alike are invited to the Holiday Open House on Wednesday, December 11, from 5:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m., when we will enjoy cookies and hot chocolate, strolling carolers, docent-led tours of our Period Rooms, door prizes and even a visit from Santa Claus!  Join us and share a cup of cheer, for the holidays come but once a year!

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