Merry Christmas, children! If you’ve been a good child, Satan Claus will happily tell you of the most joyous time of the year, that festival of light in which all that is pure, good, and joyous is celebrated!

That’s right; the White House Christmas decorations. So, in Christmases (Christmi? Christmodes?) past, we’ve seen hallways of blood-red Christmas Trees, nightmarish white forests of terror — in short, Melania’s Slovenian heritage has come out, and naive Americans have learned about Continental European Traditions, like the Krampus and Rammstein. Seriously; go look up previous White House decorations; it’s like Stephen King took acid and put up holiday decor (yes, it really is that terrifying). Needless to say, if you’re a fan of the alien beings that have taken up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania, you probably shouldn’t continue reading.

So, you can imagine my delight at learning that the Whitehouse has unveiled its latest Haunted House o’ Christmas. My money was that it would just be a bunch of children’s corpse’s nailed to the walls (Melania’s hard-core). You can imagine my disappointment at going to the Whitehouse’s website and seeing the aggressively tasteful, non-horrifying, generic Christmas decor (These images are from Whitehouse.gov; I didn’t ask for permission because it is a federally-owned building and a public space).

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It looks almost charming and friendly. The trees look good, too.

It’s almost disconcerting how non-Gothic-terror it all is. This is like The Donald’s recent attempts to repaint himself as a generic, boring conservative instead of Hitler-lite. Or like jazz — it’s what isn’t there that’s important. But we’ll come back to that in a second. On the Whitehouse webpage, most of the photos are dedicated to volunteers unpacking and doing the actual decorating. One imagines that the army of aides that keeps The Donald shackled in the Oval Office to protect the public from him finally got to the First Couple and told them that this scary, off-putting, “Nightmare Before Christmas” schtick would cost them that important evangelical vote (you can’t have a war on Christmas if the Commander-in-Chief and his wife are actively destroying holiday cheer). Amongst the sanitized, photo-op-worthy White House released photos are…

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Melania Trump and the LIttle Lebowski Urban Achievers

Please note the girl right of center. It’s possible she’s just watching M. Trump greet the other children, it’s possible she (the girl) is convinced M. Trump is a Flerken and about to devour them all.

In their attempt to appear a completely normal, regular human couple who are frequently photographed in the same room, the Trumps even released an awkward family holiday photo of the kind you send to distant relatives to reassure them that life is good, there are no lawyers exhaustively reviewing the pre-nup; smile! Or grin in hatred!

I take it back; that’s much scarier than the Christmas Trees o’ Doom

Again, I’m not getting a big, “We love the holidays and want to share that with you” vibe from this, it’s more, “Our handlers said we’d have to look normal and pleasant and sane for ten minutes, or we’d be banished to Queens in 2021.” If The Donald and family had rolled into the White House just another generic Republican and played the presidency that way — Mitt Romney-lite, as it were — these would all be believable, authentic photos. The man was swept into office on a tide of blood and madness, a wave of paranoia and xenophobia, and almost all the previous Christmas decorating seasons have played directly into that image. Where’s the pile of Christmas skulls? The Iron Throne? Where are the Trump’s real decorations? Inquiring minds want to know.

Fortunately, this is no fluff piece about how warm, cozy, and non-horrific the decorations are. Yr writer, in a dazzling display of investigative journalism, actually went to People Magazine’s website (there’s a paradoxical phrase) and dug deeper. All copyright goes to the photographers of People (the people of People, let’s be honest), and permission to use these was neither sought nor granted — again, I’m assuming that Conde Nast Publishing (or whichever media conglomerate currently owns People) isn’t going to be overly bothered by some unknown gadfly on the back alleys of Medium.

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Most people usually try to avoid the red stuff in/near the fireplace.

Note the Fireplace o’ Satan. I mean, the Fireplace o’ Santa. To be fair, there is a bit of cherry-picking here, from the proper angle, it’d look like a garish Poinsettia arrangement. Again, it’s the Uncanny Valley of Christmas decorating.

Dear reader, I feel this photo is just a hint of the potential madness. SUMMON FORTH THE DEVOURER OF WORLDS!

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It’s a voodoo doll of America. How quaint.

That’s the one! Note the sinister red lighting, the tacky attempt to fit all of America’s Greatest Architectural Hits onto a single table, and how simple beige-white isn’t enough; it must be bone white, with creepy, accentuated lighting. Children, Melania hasn’t been banished to New York for the holidays; she was just sent to the kid’s table!

And if she’s had the slightest influence on that, maybe, please, Santa, she got back the Hallway of Horror?

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It isn’t overtly terrifying. I guess that’s an improvement.

There are no bleeding Christmas Trees or haunted forests, to be sure, but it’s still stark, bare, and cold. I’d make some jokes about that but it’s just too easy. I can only assume, as with most other aspects of the presidency, the Trumps’ darkest impulses have been throttled back and forced to present a facade of normalcy and near-sanity. Dig just a little deeper, though, and the weirdness becomes nigh-palpable. Obviously, I’m going to keep a very close eye on this critical news item.

CRITICAL UPDATE: According to one news source, the not-so-subtle theme of this year’s Very White House Christmas is ultra-mega patriotism. I guess. I mean, I could kind of see where you get to there from bland, vague-Christianity Christmas, but I guess it’s (somewhat ironically, given my past writings about this issue) dog-whistle patriotism. I mean, yeah, there are trees and decorations next to Washington and Jefferson, but it’s the White House. Portraits of past presidents are sort of the thing. I mean, I guess opaque mega-nationalism is slightly preferable to the haunted hallway? Maybe? Maybe we should just agree with Jesus (or Matthew, if you want to get technical) that public professions of faith or nationality aren’t good for the public discourse, and maybe don’t make this a surreal national event?

Written by

Science journalist, cancer survivor, biomedical consultant, the “Wednesday Addams of travel writers.”

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