Patriotism theme of Christmas at WH

WASHINGTON (AP) — Melania Trump is celebrating American patriotism at the White House this Christmas, incorporating red and blue into the traditional holiday green, adding a timeline of American design, innovation and architecture and studding a Christmas tree with her family’s annual ornament, the American flag.

The traditional gingerbread White House shares its stage with American landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and Golden Gate Bridge.

“It is with great joy that our family welcomes you to the White House this holiday season as we celebrate the Spirit of America,” President Donald Trump, the first lady and their son, Barron, say in the signed introduction to a souvenir book visitors will receive as a holiday keepsake. “We hope you enjoy our tribute to the traditions, customs and history that make our nation great.”

The White House previewed the decorations for journalists on Monday before Trump and the first lady departed for London. Journalists were also admitted to the grounds of the Naval Observatory, the official residence for Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, to see the Christmas decorations there.

The East Colonnade of the White House is lined with double rows of see-through panels etched with more than 60 examples of American design, innovation and architecture, ranging from the Woolworth Building in New York City to the Space Needle in Seattle.

A tree dedicated to Gold Star families that lost an immediate relative during military service stands at the beginning of the hallway while a tree decorated with the Trump family ornament — an American flag this year — glistens at the end of the colonnade.

East Room decorations are inspired by the U.S. flag and feature gilded eagle Christmas tree toppers, mirrored stars and red and blue ribbons. In the State Dining Room, at the opposite end of the hallway, the decor continues to showcase American design.

The gingerbread White House, built from 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of gingerbread and slathered in 25 pounds (11 kilograms) of royal icing and 35 pounds (16 kilograms) of chocolate, showcases the South Portico, including a staircase made using angel hair, fettucine and spaghetti.

The popular display also features models of some of the nation’s most famous landmarks, including Mount Rushmore, St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, the Alamo, the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty, along with the Golden Gate Bridge and the Space Needle.

The Blue Room is again commanded by a towering tree, a 18 ½-foot Douglas fir from a Pennsylvania farm, decorated with flowers representing every state and territory. The Red Room is decorated with games, including trees made of White House playing cards bearing the president and first lady’s signatures. It’s meant to highlight her “Be Best” youth initiative and serve as a reminder of the kindness, respect and teamwork needed to play together.

Mrs. Trump continued her tradition of hanging wreaths on the mansion’s exterior windows, 106 in all.

‘Existential’ is word of the year

NEW YORK (AP) — Climate change, gun violence, the very nature of democracy and an angsty little movie star called Forky helped propel “existential” to Dictionary.com’s word of the year.

The choice reflects months of high-stakes threats and crises, real and pondered, across the news, the world and throughout 2019.

“In our data, it speaks to this sense of grappling with our survival, both literally and figuratively, that defined so much of the discourse,” said John Kelly, senior research editor for the site, ahead of Monday’s announcement.

The word earned top of mind awareness in sustained searches at Dictionary.com in the aftermath of wildfires and Hurricane Dorian, and mass shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and El Paso, Texas. It also reared itself in presidential politics and pop culture, including Forky the white plastic spork who was the breakout star of “Toy Story 4.”

The soiled utensil is convinced his destiny is in the trash, until he embraces his purpose as a treasured toy of kindergartener Bonnie.

“Forky underscores how this sense of grappling can also inspire us to ask big questions about who we are, about our purpose,” Kelly told The Associated Press.

Oxford Dictionaries picked “climate emergency” as its word of the year, noting usage evidence that reflects the “ethos, mood, or preoccupations of the passing year,” the company said in a statement.

Dictionary.com crunches lookup and other data to decide which word to anoint each year. The site has been picking a word of the year since 2010.

Among search spikes for “existential” were those that occurred after both Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders and 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg characterized climate change as an “existential” crisis, Kelly said.

Another spike occurred when former Vice President Joe Biden, also vying for the Democratic presidential nod, painted President Donald Trump as an “existential threat” to decency.

The word dates to 1685, deriving from Late Latin’s “existentialis.” Dictionary.com defines existential as “of or relating to existence” and “of, relating to, or characteristic of philosophical existentialism; concerned with the nature of human existence as determined by the individual’s freely made choices.”

Poland’s Nobel-winning writer to support art, civil rights

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s Nobel Prize winning writer Olga Tokarczuk said Monday she is starting a foundation to promote literature as well as human rights and environment awareness.

Tokarczuk is an outspoken critic of Poland’s right-wing government and of its policy of supporting mainly those artists and historians who follow its conservative outlook and stress on national values.

She said she was offering 350,000 zlotys ($89,000; 81,000 euros) for the Olga Tokarczuk Foundation that will offer undiscriminating support to Polish and foreign writers and authors. It will also promote minority and women’s rights.

The 57-year-old Tokarczuk said she was glad she still feels young and can use her distinction to the purpose of doing “something good for the world.”

She has asked filmmaker Agnieszka Holland, who has filmed her animal rights novel “Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead,” to be one of the foundation’s board members.

Tokarczuk will receive her award in a gala ceremony Dec.10 in Stockholm.

Poland’s government has been lukewarm about the distinction and the culture minister said he needs to try and finish reading her books.