WASHINGTON -- New at the White House this holiday season: penguins, snowmen and snow women, and hanging snowflakes.
Returning this season: larger-than-life replicas of dogs Bo and Sunny, an 18 1/2 -foot Blue Room tree dedicated to military families, and a gingerbread White House - covered in dark chocolate, instead of white chocolate as in years past, and weighing in at nearly 500 pounds.
President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, expect to welcome more than 68,000 guests in the weeks before Christmas.
They'll be greeted at the East Wing entrance by a family of plywood penguins before walking down a hallway with paper snowflakes hanging overhead. There's one snowflake for each state and U.S. territory, along with others made by local schoolchildren who adorned them with hand-written wishes.
Outside the hallway windows, 56 snowmen and women, some wearing hats and scarves or earmuffs, look on from the first lady's garden.
The first lady unveiled the decorations Wednesday, giving military families the first peek. Afterward, she led a group of children dressed in their finest clothes to the East Room where they prepared crafts and treats with help from the White House executive chef, head pastry chef and head florist.