It's never decorated with religious ornaments, instead it's often adorned with a variety of secular ornaments, like bird figurines, historic homes, musical instruments, Victorian dolls, even Wilbur the Pig. Last year, for example, First Lady Laura Bush's "A Red, White and Blue Christmas," tree was hung with over 350 ornaments hand-decorated by artists from around the country. The White House announced, "Each ornament was specially designed to characterize the unique, patriotic spirit of the artist's state, district or territory."
The first themed tree in 1961 was dedicated to the Nutcracker Ballet. This included ornamental tree toys. These were reused in 1962 on Mrs.Kennedy's children's themed tree. In addition to these reused ornaments, she also used straw ornaments that had been made by seniors and disabled people from around the country. Disabled people's skills for making ornaments have been used over the years to make ornaments for other First Ladies.
The 1989 theme chosen by First Lady Barbara Bush was family literacy. The theme incorporated ornaments that represented characters from books. These ornaments were made by White House staff. The White House staff that were talented in handicraft also helped to make the ornaments for her 1990 Nutcracker theme, harking back to the theme that Jacqueline Kennedy used in 1961. The theme was again done by Hillary Clinton in 1996.
The 2000 tree theme was called Holiday Reflections and featured a combination of ornaments from the years that Hillary Clinton was the First Lady. The themes represented included her Nutcracker version, Santa's Workshop with glass ornaments, A Winter Wonderland with fabric ornaments from the 50 states, Holiday Treasures at the White House with toy ornaments, Angels, and The Twelve Days of Christmas.
First Lady Laura Bush decorated her first White House tree in the theme of Home for the Holidays. The theme included replicas of historic homes from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The 2003 theme was A Season of Stories, which was similar to the 1989 theme, with its storybook characters decor. The most recent theme is the 2007 Holiday in the National Park theme, which features ornaments from National Parks around the country.
First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the 2009 White House Christmas Tree last week. The theme this year is "Reflect, Rejoice and Renew," and the tree features over 800 ornaments re-decorated by 60 American communities, celebrating local monuments and institutions. There are ornaments featuring the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore as well as some lesser known national landmarks.