Outgoing US first lady Melania Trump has officially welcomed the White House Christmas tree for the final time.
Ms Trump emerged from the White House for just a few minutes on Monday afternoon (Washington time) as the 5.6-metre Fraser fir arrived on on a horse-drawn wagon.
However, there was no sign of her husband – even though the traditional arrival of the tree is usually a family celebration for the White House incumbent.
Just hours earlier, Donald Trump had remained defiant about the November 3 presidential election result even while taking his first real steps towards conceding his loss to Joe Biden.
After refusing to acknowledge the election result for three weeks, on Monday Mr Trump finally authorised the US government agency that must sign off on it to formally begin “initial protocols” that will recognise Mr Biden as the winner.
But he also vowed to keep up the fight and said “our case strongly continues”.
Dressed in a black and white chequered coat to greet the tree, Ms Trump refused to answer shouted questions from journalists about her husband.
“Merry Christmas” was all she would say as she waved to cameras, inspected the tree, and posed for photos with it and the owners of the West Virginian farm where it was grown.
For the three minutes she remained outside the White House, a brass section of the US Marine Band played carols, including O Christmas Tree and Hark the Herald Angels Sing.
The tree, which was specially chosen by the White House’s grounds superintendent, will go on display in the building’s Blue Room.
“This special tree has to fit exacting and particular specifications to go on display is such a historic room,” the US National Christmas Tree Association said in a statement.
“We are honoured to have the opportunity to represent the Christmas tree growers of America, by continuing the tradition of providing a tree to the White House Blue Room, which will be viewed by millions of people.”
The ceremonial delivery came almost two months after CNN aired secret recordings of Ms Trump venting her frustration with decorating the White House for Christmas.
“I’m working … my ass off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f— about the Christmas stuff and decorations? But I need to do it, right?” she said in recordings provided by her former friend and senior adviser Stephanie Winston Wolkoff.
The Trumps also have another traditional White House public relations celebration set for later in the week – on Tuesday (local time) Mr Trump is scheduled to officially pardon a turkey ahead of Thanksgiving feasts across the nation.
There might be some moments of discomfort for Mr Trump if he recalls the 2018 ceremony, when turkeys named Peas and Carrots were vying for the presidential pardon. Mr Trump said Peas had won the vote in “a fair and open election” – and called out Carrots for refusing to accept the results.
“This was a fair election,” he said at the time. “Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount, and we’re still fighting with Carrots.
“Carrots, I’m sorry to tell you, the results did not change,” Mr Trump continued, adding, “Too bad for Carrots.”