Melania Trump's red topiary trees a hit at Christmas parties

Melania Trump's cranberry topiary trees may have left some of her critics seeing red, but they turned out to be a Christmas hit — one of several new ideas the Trumps introduced this holiday season.

In a four-week stretch of 21 holiday parties, the president also did fewer official photo ops and largely froze out the media. But in time-honored tradition, though, politicos still used the celebrations to squeeze in last-minute deal-making.

Many of the soirees unfolded under the threat of a partial government shutdown that took effect Saturday.

A stalemate with Congress over Trump's demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border forced the president to delay his plan to shift the merrymaking to his Florida estate on Friday. He remained in Washington while his wife and son, Barron, flew to Palm Beach without him.

Mrs. Trump's decision to place more than 40 red trees on a green carpet along the East Wing colonnade turned out to be quite the attraction: Pedestrian traffic jams formed as guests clamored to be photographed in front of the unusual holiday landscape .

"Every single person that came through the East Wing stopped for a photo," said conservative commentator Paris Dennard, a recent guest.

Armstrong Williams, another conservative commentator, tweeted photos of himself posing in front of the trees made using fake berry branches.

"I thought it was just classy," he said. "Great for photos."

RELATED: 2018 White House Christmas decorations

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2018 White House Christmas decorations
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2018 White House Christmas decorations
Christmas decorations are seen at the White House during a preview of the 2018 holiday decor in Washington, DC, on November 26, 2018. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Topiary trees line the East colonnade during the 2018 Christmas Press Preview at the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. Christmas has arrived at the White House. First lady Melania Trump unveiled the 2018 White House holiday decor on Monday. She designed the decor, which features a theme of "American Treasures." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Carrying first lady Melania Trump's 'Be Best' initiative, the Red Room is decorated to 'celebrate children through the décor, which displays ways in which children can excel in their own path' at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Christmas decorations are seen at the White House during a preview of the 2018 holiday decor in Washington, DC, on November 26, 2018. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Carrying first lady Melania Trump's 'Be Best' initiative, the Red Room is decorated to 'celebrate children through the décor, which displays ways in which children can excel in their own path' at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
An ornament with an image of President George Washington is seen during the 2018 Christmas preview at the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. Christmas has arrived at the White House for 2018 as first lady Melania Trump unveiled the holiday decor. She designed the decor, which features a theme of "American Treasures." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
A wreath made of "Be Best" pencils is seen in the Red Room during a 2018 Christmas preview at the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. Christmas has arrived at the White House for 2018 as first lady Melania Trump unveiled the holiday decor. She designed the decor, which features a theme of "American Treasures." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Carrying first lady Melania Trump's 'Be Best' initiative, the Red Room is decorated to 'celebrate children through the décor, which displays ways in which children can excel in their own path' at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Carrying first lady Melania Trump's 'Be Best' initiative, the Red Room is decorated to 'celebrate children through the décor, which displays ways in which children can excel in their own path' at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: At 18 feet tall, the official White House Christmas is dressed in over 500 feet of blue velvet ribbon embroidered in gold with each state and territory, on display inside the Blue Room at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: At 18 feet tall, the official White House Christmas is dressed in over 500 feet of blue velvet ribbon embroidered in gold with each state and territory, on display inside the Blue Room at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Christmas decorations are seen at the White House during a preview of the 2018 holiday decor in Washington, DC, on November 26, 2018. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: At 18 feet tall, the official White House Christmas is dressed in over 500 feet of blue velvet ribbon embroidered in gold with each state and territory, on display inside the Blue Room at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Holiday decorations celebrating the 'country’s national symbols, including the bald eagle, the rose, and the oak tree' are on display in the State Dining Room at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Gingerbread buildings from the National Mall, including the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the White House are on display in the State Dining Room at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Christmas decorations are seen at the White House during a preview of the 2018 holiday decor in Washington, DC, on November 26, 2018. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Christmas decorations are seen at the White House during a preview of the 2018 holiday decor in Washington, DC, on November 26, 2018. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Christmas decorations are seen at the White House during a preview of the 2018 holiday decor in Washington, DC, on November 26, 2018. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Holiday decorations celebrating the 'country’s national symbols, including the bald eagle, the rose, and the oak tree' are on display in the State Dining Room at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: The United States Marine Band performs holiday music in the decorated Grand Foyer at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Christmas decorations are seen at the White House during a preview of the 2018 holiday decor in Washington, DC, on November 26, 2018. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
A tree is seen at the White House during a preview of the 2018 holiday decor in Washington, DC, on November 26, 2018. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Christmas decorations are seen at the White House during a preview of the 2018 holiday decor in Washington, DC, on November 26, 2018. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Trees decorated for the holidays line the Cross Hall as projections of foliage run the length of the ceiling at the White House November 26, 2018 in Washington, DC. The 2018 theme of the White House holiday decorations is 'American Treasures,' and features patriotic displays highlighting the country's 'unique heritage.' The White House expects to host 100 open houses and more than 30,000 guests who will tour the topiary trees, architectural models of major U.S. cities, the Gold Star family tree and national monuments in gingerbread. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The First Family's official Christmas ornament is seen during the press preview at the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. Christmas has arrived at the White House for 2018 as first lady Melania Trump unveiled the holiday decor. She designed the decor, which features a theme of "American Treasures." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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Trump and the first lady on Wednesday hosted the final two parties of the season, where guests feasted on lamb chops, shrimp and potato latkes along with a dessert bar that included lemon tart, coconut cake and Christmas cookies. Champagne and egg nog flowed freely.

Guests said the affairs amounted to festive reunions largely devoid of overt political talk while folks who'd been out of touch spent time catching up.

Sebastian Gorka, a former Trump national security aide, called the atmosphere a "true celebration of America's Judeo-Christian heritage and our oldest traditions."

"Having a great time at the Whitehouse (cq) Christmas Party!" said the caption former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus added to a photo he tweeted of himself and outgoing Chief of Staff John Kelly. Kelly succeeded Priebus just six months into the new administration. Now Kelly is set to depart at the end of December after a topsy-turvy 18-month stint as Oval Office gatekeeper.

Other notable guests included "Six Million Dollar Man" Lee Majors, Trump supporters Diamond and Silk, and professional soccer player Wayne Rooney.

Largely absent from the festivities this year was the traditional opportunity for guests to have a picture taken with Trump and his wife, a time-consuming process that requires the president and first lady to stand for hours, grinning, posing and making small talk with hundreds of guests, some of whom they hardly know.

Trump retained the photo tradition for members of the U.S. Secret Service, law enforcement and the military, as well as staff who work in the residence, according to a White House official who declined to be identified discussing details of the private receptions.

Except for a pair of Hanukkah receptions in the East Room, many of the holiday gatherings took place in the Grand Foyer, the open area on the State Floor across from the Blue Room.

The parties had a certain rhythm: A tuxedo-clad Trump and the first lady, who has worn a variety of white, black and green gowns, descended the red-carpeted staircase hand-in-hand from their second-floor residence. Trump made roughly 10 minutes of welcoming remarks before inviting his wife to speak. They then mingled and posed for some informal photos before going back upstairs.

Williams said he saw "warmth" between the couple.

"You watch that body language. She was really happy. And she was really happy to be with him," Williams said, adding that the president's remarks were "upbeat."

The parties also offered job-searching opportunities for some of those on the hunt.

Trump needs to find new leaders for the departments of the Interior and Defense and he's got a class of soon-to-be unemployed members of Congress to choose from if he wants.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., who lost his re-election and is one such member said to be interested in the Interior job, attended last Saturday's Congressional Ball at the White House.

Left off the holiday schedule was the annual party for the White House press corps, a likely result of Trump's sour relations with journalists who cover him and the administration.

As an alternative, the White House said it has arranged tours for reporters and their families who have asked to see the decorations.

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