Louisiana First Lady Donna Edwards has the Governor's Mansion decked out in its Christmas best as she and Gov. John Bel Edwards and their three now-grown children spend a seventh holiday season in what she calls the people's home.
Edwards said she strives to achieve an understated elegance that pays homage to the state's culture and previous occupants.
"We invite a lot of people to share the home during the holiday season and we want to make it feel festive and welcoming without being intimidating," Edwards said. "We want it to be simple, elegant, traditional."
The mansion's largest of many inside Christmas trees stands in the drawing room in the opposite corner of another tree adorned with ornaments made by Louisiana students across the state.
Edwards said each year she is amazed by the creativity of the state's students.
"It's so much fun to see their creations and display them," she said.
White and gold dominate the mansion's Christmas décor this season, "a little repurposing from Christmases past," Edwards said.
"White and gold seem reverent and holy," she said. "White reminds me of the light of God and love and gold symbolizes royalty."
The Edwards also display a Jewish menorah to celebrate Hanukkah, which is from Dec. 18-Dec. 26 this year.
"We recognize all faiths and want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable," she said.
Among the displays celebrating previous gubernatorial families are two pencil Christmas trees first displayed by Gov. John McKeithen in the mansion's spectacular foyer, which is backlit by a French Baccarat Crystal chandelier bought through private donations in 2018. It complements the Baccarat Crystal candelabras added to the mansion during Gov. Mike Foster's eight-year stay.
And upstairs, in the family's private residence, are the stockings hanging on a fireplace that began as needlepoint craft kits Edwards bought when the couple was just married in 1989 and stationed in Hawaii while John Bel Edwards was serving in the U.S. Army.
"It was before we had any children, but somehow I bought three children's stockings - a girl's, a boy's and one that was for either a girl or a boy that ended up fitting the personalities of our three children (Samantha, Sarah Ellen and John Miller)," Edwards said. "My mother was the one who made the stockings and we're still using them today."
Both Edwards and her husband said they are mindful Christmas can be a trying time for some and encouraged those who are able to serve others during the season.
“Donna and her team of volunteers do an outstanding job each year of making the mansion beautiful, and we truly enjoy being able to share it with others," the governor said in a statement. "But we also recognize that this can be a very difficult time of year for many of our citizens, so we always use this as an opportunity to raise awareness and do what we can to help.”
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Louisiana First Lady Donna Edwards decks out Governor's Mansion for Christmas