Red is a Christmas color.
So why did Twitter and other social media platforms erupt when First Lady Melania Trump unveiled this year’s White House Christmas trees including 45 that are ruby red?
Amelia Florist Vickie Wenstrup is struggling to find an answer to this question. She was caught off-guard by the social media reaction to the red berry Christmas trees that she and a team of other volunteers labored over for three days.
The reactions were unexpected and "horrible," she said.
"I don't know who first said it. Or why," Wenstrup recalled. "The first thing I saw (on Google) was 'Melania Trump covers the White House in blood for Christmas.'"
That certainly wasn't how Wenstrup saw the trees which are located in the East Colonnade of the East Wing.
She thought that the design was perhaps inspired by the sculpted and shaped holly topiary trees in the garden that are visible outside the hallway's windows. The garden is one of two designed by former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Wenstrup said.
The cranberry tree that adorns the White House Red Room could have also served as an inspiration, she suggested. Whatever the idea's source, it was not Wenstrup's. The first lady's team worked on that.
Wenstrup and the other volunteers were there to work. For three days she, and others like her, labored to transform white styrofoam cones into the red, berry trimmed trees featured in some unflattering Twitter memes.
It was hard work. Some of the volunteers taped their fingertips to protect them, Wenstrup said.
No pictures were permitted during decorating, she said. On Monday, after the first lady officially unveiled the White House holiday decorations, Wenstrup and others were free to take pictures.
One of several photographs Wenstrup shared on Facebook was of a 10-foot tall tree she called one of her "masterpieces."
Best kept secret
Wenstrup has been a florist for 41 years. She began her career fresh out of Amelia High School in the very shop she now owns, Amelia Florist and Gifts. Each year HGTV airs a Christmas at the White House special. It's a show the florist faithfully watches.
More than once, Wenstrup had mentioned to her husband of 38 years, Bruce, that she would love to help decorate the White House for Christmas.
"I guess he took it upon himself to make that happen," she said.
In January, Bruce Wenstrup requested letters of recommendations from clients and assembled a portfolio. He filled several binders with favorable letters and other materials promoting his wife as an ideal volunteer. He sent copies to the first lady, her chief of staff, and the head floral designer.
In October Bruce Wenstrup learned that his wife had been selected. He surprised her with the news on Oct. 27 over a family dinner. Vickie Wenstrup cried.
More than 7,000 people applied. About 250 volunteers were selected to decorate, according to the White House.
"How do you repay somebody who gives you stuff like this. It’s a priceless gift," Wenstrup said of her husband.
There were many highlights from her visit to the White House, Wenstrup said. Two stand out above all others, however.
One highlight came Sunday morning, Wenstrup's third day of tree decorating. That's when they brought in the gingerbread house they make yearly.
"It’s a huge undertaking," Wenstrup said. "Just to witness that come in through the doors. We were all lined up and they wheeled it past us and everybody was applauding and cheering... It just made me cry. It's just something you never think you’re going to see in person."
The second highlight was an impromptu opportunity to visit the White House flower shop. A White House staffer Wenstrup talked with at length with over breakfast one morning made this dream a reality.
Since returning home, Wenstrup said she's been overwhelmed by her new celebrity status. People, both local and from out-of-state, are calling and stopping by the shop to congratulate and thank her. Wenstrup said she's honored but surprised.
She's uncertain how word got out about her involvement with the White House Christmas decorations. Wenstrup attributed some of the attention to an announcement on the Village of Amelia Facebook page that told of her selection as a volunteer ahead of the trip.
During a council meeting, Wenstrup was presented with a proclamation by Amelia Council and a Certificate of Congressional Recognition from a representative of Congressman Brad Wenstrup's office.
For those who are wondering, Bruce and Brad Wenstrup might be distantly related. They're uncertain. They had never met until recently, Vickie Wenstrup said.
Christmas at the White House
The theme for this year’s White House Christmas is American Treasures, which honors America’s heritage. First Lady Melania Trump is credited with the design of this year’s Christmas decorations.
“This is a joyous time of year when we decorate the White House for the Christmas season,” Melania Trump said in a statement. “Our theme honors the heart and spirit of the American people. Thank you to the many volunteers and staff who worked hard to decorate the halls of the People’s House in Christmas cheer. On behalf of my family, we wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
In addition to the red berry trees, the White House decorations include 14,000 red ornaments hanging from 29 trees in the Grand Foyer, a giant gingerbread house depicting the National Mall, and the official White House Christmas tree decorated in blue velvet ribbon embroidered in gold with names of each state and territory.