Relationships

Going to a White House Holiday Party

Going to a White House Holiday Party

As I mentioned, Alex and I were lucky enough to attend a holiday party at the White House, and it was magical…

Going to a White House Holiday Party

On Friday morning, we drove down to D.C., where we stayed at The Avery Georgetown. Side note: A four-and-a-half hour drive is a TOTAL JOY when you don’t have kids with you — we talked, listened to a ton of music and played Would You Rather.

Going to a White House Holiday Party

The party started at 6:30 p.m., so we got dressed early. Alex put on a suit and tie, and I wore an off-the-shoulder dress and my go-to $6 lipstick. We then pulled up Uber and typed in our destination: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!

Going to a White House Holiday Party

Guests had to pass through multiple security checks and metal detectors outside, and Alex and I got separated in the chaos. While waiting for him just inside the White House doors, I stood next to a young staffer, who was friendly but looked stressed. “I’m trying to memorize a woman’s face,” she told me, staring at her phone. “I’m supposed to greet her personally.” She showed me her Google image search and it was: Ina Garten! I was like, I CAN HELP YOU WITH THIS. Lo and behold, 10 seconds later, the Barefoot Contessa walked in with Jeffrey, and the staffer strolled up gracefully to say hello.

Going to a White House Holiday Party

Going to a White House Holiday Party

Once Alex and I reconnected, we headed inside. We wove our way around giant nutcrackers and Christmas trees. The Marine Corps band played holiday music, and portraits of former presidents and first ladies filled the walls. The official White House tree was decorated with sweet cards written to service men and women.

Going to a White House Holiday Party

Going to a White House Holiday Party

We expected maybe a cheese plate, but the spread was was lavish. Guests mingled around carving stations and a long buffet table filled with shrimp, crab claws, lamb, salad and a seriously amazing cauliflower mac n’ cheese. Along the side of the room, long tables were lined with dozens of wine and Champagne glasses, so you could walk up and grab a drink anytime. Alex beelined for the White House egg nog, which was spiked and strong. (Here’s the recipe.) The executive pastry chef had also created a perfect White House replica, made of gingerbread and covered in white chocolate.

Going to a White House Holiday Party

The highlight of the evening, needless to say, was the speech from President Obama. He and Michelle descended the stairs from their apartment (which was DIRECTLY ABOVE where we were, I almost died). They looked gorgeous and glowing as he thanked his team, made jokes about the egg nog and talked about the future. The crowd was going wild — every two seconds, someone would yell out, “Four more years!” or “We love you!!!!!” Afterward, the Obamas headed right back upstairs (to watch a movie and relax?), but it was intoxicating, and we were pinching ourselves for getting to be there for such an incredible night.

Thank you so much for reading! Have you ever been to the White House? We never had before. Any other things you’re curious about? xoxoxo

  1. Susan M. says...

    Lovely! Thank you for sharing. Years ago I worked in government and politics (lived in DC 2 different times) and got to attend a White House Christmas parties. It’s so exciting to be there no matter how many times!

  2. Wow, what a beautiful and amazing night. I haven’t attended any till date but will surely try to attend one.

  3. Sophie says...

    This looks incredible!!! What a fun night. Loved the Ina Garten story– I would’ve recognized her in a heartbeat, ha!

  4. Omg !! You met the Obamas?! Seriously?? Damn lucky you!!! They are my real models ma real heroes!! I’m running back to your Wednesday post!!!!! Where are you!!!!!!!!

  5. This is HUGE. You guys were so lucky to be invited to the White House during Obama administration. Can you imagine if it was on Trump’s? How B O R I N G and orange would that be? Question: who invited you? It was because of the blog? Another stuff? Your husband maybe? Super curious. xx

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your note, rosa! here’s part of the incredibly sweet invitation email they sent a couple days after the presidential election in november. i was really thrilled and touched:

      Hi Joanna, Thanks for your very sweet and honest post on Wednesday… As we close out the Administration, we are thinking about the people and organizations that have been positive voices over the past few years. You are certainly one of those voices and we would love to have you and a guest here for our White House Holiday Reception in December. Let us know the best email address for you and we can pass along additional information. Look forward to hearing from you.

    • I am gonna look for that last Wednesday post. This was so cool =)

    • Congee says...

      That is amazing! I agree that you and your blog are definitely thoughtful, positive voices in our world. I love that someone in Obama-land is a fan! Staffer? Malia or Sasha? Or maybe MIchelle??? LOVE !!! and CONGRATS!!

  6. gogogramma says...

    Toured the White House last spring. It should be on every Americans bucket list! I found myself getting so emotional when I thought about the history, Truly inspirational.

  7. Haylee F. says...

    That is the great thing about living in DC – eventually you will meet someone with a connection of some sort and get to go on tours and/or to events at some of the nation’s most prestigous buildings like the White House or Capitol, etc. A few years ago, I went bowling with some friends at the White House bowling alley and the place looked like it had changed much since the 60s/70s! It was so cool and something I will never forget!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      how cool!!!

  8. Adrienne says...

    You’re at The White House. Seriously, why would you “expect maybe a cheese plate”?????
    So lucky to meet Pres Obama and First Lady Michelle. Dreading the next 4 years (or what Trump’s calling “the next 8 years”)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahaha i knew they had a ton of holiday parties so i figured maybe it was more a drinks vs dinner thing. so glad i was wrong about that! :)

  9. This is the BEST! Oh man, I’m gonna miss them for sure, what a class act the Obamas are. PS – your Ina Garten moment killed me “I CAN HELP YOU WITH THIS” hahaha!

  10. [sees picture of Ina] “This is the mission I was born for”

    great recap, sounds like the ultimate dream soiree!

    • emily says...

      ha! my favorite part of this post. i would die.

  11. I grew up near D.C. for 22 years and never did the White House tour! Talk about taking your locale for granted. I am so over the moon about this. I will really miss this family in the White House. I wrote a letter to the President telling him so and I was in tears over my laptop the whole time. Congrats on this amazing opportunity!

  12. I’m literally dying over your helpful hand with Ina!!!! “I CAN HELP YOU WITH THIS!”

    Hysterical!!!!!

  13. What an experience!

  14. Laurel says...

    I’m curious about why/how y’all got invited? Was it all people in the media?

    • Leah says...

      Me too!!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your note! here’s part of the incredibly sweet invitation email they sent a couple days after the presidential election in november. i was really thrilled and touched:

      Hi Joanna, Thanks for your very sweet and honest post on Wednesday… As we close out the Administration, we are thinking about the people and organizations that have been positive voices over the past few years. You are certainly one of those voices and we would love to have you and a guest here for our White House Holiday Reception in December. Let us know the best email address for you and we can pass along additional information. Look forward to hearing from you.

  15. Jessica says...

    That is so amazing that you got to go. Like so many other commenters, I too am intrigued what the party was for and how you got an invite.

    My parents and I got a personal (and many times behind the scenes) tour of the White House a few years ago as a close family friend worked there. I really enjoyed it…but a party would have been that much better!

  16. Chesley says...

    Amazing!

  17. Sarah says...

    Thanks for sharing this awesome experience!! Nice to have a glimpse inside :) What was the purpose of the event, and how did you and Alex get selected? Love to know!

  18. The White House at the holidays is the best! One of my favorite things about living in DC: working various contacts to get a tour. It’s magical!

  19. Arika says...

    I’m not sure who would have had me more star struck! Ina & Jeffrey or the Obamas!

  20. Rebecca says...

    It’s so amazing you had the opportunity to see POTUS, FLOTUS, Ina and Jeffrey! It truly sounds like a magical night!

  21. Jean says...

    Wow! What an honor. Thank you for sharing. While I disagreed with about half of his policies, I thought he and Michelle were probably wonderful people. I would have been nervous. You looked lovely and relaxed.

  22. Sarah says...

    Joanna, I am a young staffer in the White House (one who’s a big fan of Ina!), and I was thrilled to see that you were invited to a holiday party here. Just want you to know you have MANY fans here at the White House!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is so sweet, sarah! that means a lot. thank you :)

  23. Jane Wythe says...

    Right after the election I was so heartbroken that I wrote a letter to the White House simply thanking the Obamas for all they have done for our country. They have challenged me and taught me so much about human kindness and family. I will always cherish them as leaders and as people. It is bittersweet to see them go, alas Democracy prevails.

  24. Julie says...

    I recognize food writer Jeffrey Steingarten in that one photo (he was a judge on Iron Chef America)! That must have been an incredible experience. And I LOVE your lipstick.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so awesome!! i loved his food writing for vogue. thanks for pointing that out!

  25. Alexa says...

    I live in Alexandria, just outside of DC. Our friend in the neighborhood was the pastry chef at the White House under the administration prior to Obama. Since the former President didn’t align with her political views, she never took the chance to meet him!

    • Jen says...

      That’s kind of depressing. She could not meet another human being because his political views were different. We can find common ground with anyone if we try.

  26. Kara says...

    But, they came downstairs to make an appearance and then just went back up??????

    • Erin says...

      I’ve heard that they have A LOT of these holiday parties leading up to Christmas. At least a few days a week I think. So they mostly just make a quick appearance at each one!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes, they have tons and must be exhausted! :)

  27. Abi says...

    How fun! I live in DC and got a text from my friend that works on the Hill over Thanksgiving that said “Do you want to go to the White House Christmas Tour, and say goodbye?!”. I responded “Yes!” before I even finished fully reading the text. We didn’t go to the Christmas party but even the tour was beautiful and special. We were sad to think it was our last time in the White House for awhile (at least four years). So happy you were able to go too!

  28. what a dreamy first visit to the White House!

  29. That’s so fantastic!! Thank you for sharing this experience with us!

  30. Excited for you!!

  31. Tiffany says...

    FOUR.MORE.YEARS did anyone say, PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  32. Amy says...

    3 things:
    1- Please please please tell how you were invited!!
    2- I am disheartened to know that “young staffers” are unfamiliar with Ina. Food Network needs to get her back on tv daily, pronto!
    3- “expecting a cheese plate”??? LOL. White House party! Of course they’ve got groaning tables of food!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      hahahaha you’re right, i don’t know what i was thinking regarding the food!! good thing we came hungry :)

      as far as the invitation, here’s part of the incredibly sweet email they sent a couple days after the presidential election in november. i was really thrilled and touched:

      Hi Joanna, Thanks for your very sweet and honest post on Wednesday… As we close out the Administration, we are thinking about the people and organizations that have been positive voices over the past few years. You are certainly one of those voices and we would love to have you and a guest here for our White House Holiday Reception in December. Let us know the best email address for you and we can pass along additional information. Look forward to hearing from you.

    • That is such a lovely message!!

  33. Jorden says...

    Holy moly! What a thrill!

  34. This sounds like such an amazing evening and I’m so happy you shared it so we could live vicariously through you! Those decorations are so beautiful and the food sounds incredible – if you’re going to go to a Christmas party, it really doesn’t get much better than the White House! They don’t miss a single detail!

  35. jill c. says...

    what a wonderful, amazing night! it sounds like a dream!

  36. Mary says...

    Thank you so much for sharing the experience with your readers. I think it is wonderful that you had this exciting event that you clearly earned. I also think the President and First Lady seem like lovely people.

  37. Katie says...

    So cool! Thanks for sharing with us.

  38. Wow, what a dream!

  39. amanda says...

    That’s so great that you rescued the intern searching for Ina Garden!
    I also was lucky enough to be invited to a White House Christmas party, right after the President had been reelected in 2012. It was such an amazing experience! I thought the same thing, that we’d have a drink and some cocktail snacks. We were in awe of everything; the gorgeous house itself dressed to the nines, the wonderful Marines who assisted you with anything, the incredible antique furniture we sat on under portraits of former residents. And then the food! The spread was so beautiful, and represented the best of all areas of the United States. It was of course so exciting when President and Mrs. Obama came down and spoke. My college aged son made his way to the front and shook the President’s hand! Really a magical evening. Yours will definitely become part of the family story your boys will tell… “At the White House Christmas party mom and dad went to….” Very cool!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      so amazing!!!

  40. Isabelle says...

    Wow. This was so cool to read Joanna! Thanks for sharing! and I LOVED the Ina Garten moment … :)

  41. I geeked out when you said Ina Garten was a guest! How amazing! We attended the Medal of honor Ceremony for Ryan Pitts in the White House 2.5 years ago. He is my husband’s best friend, as they were deployed together. Those events are both full of excitement and grief, as the circumstances are grim for obtaining a Medal of Honor. Extremely memorable though, and a time I hold dear as we were with our second family, my husband’s Army brothers.

    • Jean says...

      Please thank your husband for his service. Some people gave all.

  42. Thank you so much for sharing this, It’s all completely lovely… The Whitehouse, you and your dress (love the lipstick, too)!

    And the Obama’s!!! I couldn’t help but get verkelmpt when I saw that photo. I’m going to miss them, they are amazing, gracious people.

    (Cracked up at the Ina Garten part)

    • *White House

  43. Congrats! It’s so thrilling to be there. I hope it was in recognition of the amazing job you do! I love the Ina story. As an aside my friend is in the picture of Alex. She’s in the white dress to his right! Happiest holidays.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, so funny! what a small world!

  44. lomagirl says...

    Did the staffer introduce you to Ina and Jefferey? I would totally have made her! (Of course Ina wants to meet you, too!)

  45. Lauren says...

    There is nothing better than going to the White House. I lived in DC for 8 years, and went to a White House reception once — I even shook the President’s hand! The quality of the food alone makes you really proud to be an American. It’s all just *so* classy.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that is AWESOME, lauren!!!!!

  46. Audra B says...

    I was at the carving station! A friend from high school shared your blog with me when she recognized me in one of the pictures. So cool!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s so awesome!!!! :) :) :) hi audra!!!

  47. Annie says...

    Oh man, you were staying around the corner from my apartment! I wish I would have seen you — we would have totally high-fived (hugged?) :) I’m heartened that you were recognized by this administration for your good work and positive vibes. Way to go, Joanna!

  48. Megan says...

    You never explained the criteria for being invited??? DO TELL!

    • Elga says...

      This!

    • Yes! How did this come about?

    • Robin says...

      Yes!!

    • Erin says...

      I’m curious as well, from my understanding there’s not really a criteria, everyone is eligible. I think maybe you apply online if you want a ticket and then they email you an invitation if you get one. They definitely have a lot of holiday parties, one article I read said they have at least 13 each year!

    • Erin says...

      Just looked through the comments and saw that she got an invitation because of her post about the election! Super cool! She said they got an email about it and got to choose whether they wanted to attend a Tuesday or Saturday party.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much for your note! here’s part of the incredibly sweet invitation email they sent a couple days after the presidential election in november. i was really thrilled and touched:

      Hi Joanna, Thanks for your very sweet and honest post on Wednesday… As we close out the Administration, we are thinking about the people and organizations that have been positive voices over the past few years. You are certainly one of those voices and we would love to have you and a guest here for our White House Holiday Reception in December. Let us know the best email address for you and we can pass along additional information. Look forward to hearing from you.

  49. Susan M. says...

    So wonderful! Congratulations on being recognized. Most memorable line: “maybe a cheese plate” LOL. With the Contessa there? How do you write a thank you note for this one? Or does one do that? or email or what? Thanks for sharing. Loved hearing experiences of others, too.

  50. Caitlin says...

    Loved imagining the scene through your post! I dug through the comments to find out how/why you were invited. So pleased it was a nod to your advocacy for the current administration. I also thank you for your strong support for Hillary Clinton. Watching it all unfold from Canada, the outcome of the election is still so hard to believe. Hoping you continue to use your voice for advocacy when you see fit. Congratulations on all your success. Wishing you lots more of it in 2017!

  51. Morgan says...

    Love living vicariously through you. What a thrill!

  52. Sara says...

    So jealous that you got to go!! I so wanted to go to the White House while the Obamas were still there. I’m so sad they are leaving. I feel like all the class is leaving with them. I can only imagine train wreck that is coming. Ugh.

    • Nancey says...

      I feel exactly the same way and am SO sad they are leaving. We were just in Washington DC and my Boyfriend kept joking.. just go knock and say good bye but do not sob, they will call security!

  53. Liz C. says...

    Sounds so incredible Joanna. I love the Ina bit too!
    Back in the early 2000’s my sister and I went a book signing with the then Senator Obama, we got to go up and shake his hand, and have our book signed. He said “Oh are you two students?” and I quickly answered, “No, we’re sisters.” He chuckled, so pleasantly, and we were tickled, and embarrassed. He was, is, and always will be a man of such dignity and integrity. I feel grateful to have shaken his hand, and that he was our leader for 8 years, it is painful to see him and Michelle go, and we will mourn indeed.
    Happy you and Alex got to experience this event! Warm wishes to you.

  54. Kate says...

    So what was the point of the party? Was this for news folks/writers? Haha I love the part about finding Ina Garten! Did you get to meet her?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      it was one of their many holiday parties this december, and the guest list was a bunch of different people — from donors to staffers to friends to media, etc. it was really fun!

      here’s part of the incredibly sweet invitation email they sent a couple days after the presidential election in november. i was really thrilled and touched:

      Hi Joanna, Thanks for your very sweet and honest post on Wednesday… As we close out the Administration, we are thinking about the people and organizations that have been positive voices over the past few years. You are certainly one of those voices and we would love to have you and a guest here for our White House Holiday Reception in December. Let us know the best email address for you and we can pass along additional information. Look forward to hearing from you.

    • Alexa says...

      What an awesome compliment- not only to write because you love it, but to create words that have meaning to common folks, and the big ups too!