The naughty and the nice: Home-state holiday decor bedecks congressional offices

By: - December 21, 2023 5:14 pm
Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona adorned the hallway with papel picado, a traditional perforated paper garland popular in Mexico and other former Spanish colonies, and a tall cactus Christmas tree, as photographed Dec. 19 in the Longworth House Office Building. (Photo by Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)

Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona adorned the hallway with papel picado, a traditional perforated paper garland popular in Mexico and other former Spanish colonies, and a tall cactus Christmas tree, as photographed Dec. 19 in the Longworth House Office Building. (Photo by Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)

 Wisconsin’s GOP U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher displayed a large inflatable cow and a Wisconsin-themed 12 Days of Christmas outside of his office Dec. 19 in the Longworth House Office Building. (Photo by Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)
Wisconsin’s GOP U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher displayed a large inflatable cow and a Wisconsin-themed 12 Days of Christmas outside of his office Dec. 19 in the Longworth House Office Building. (Photo by Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)

WASHINGTON — Congress members and office neighbors on the second floor of the Longworth House Office Building showcased their holiday spirit this season in an unofficial decorating contest.

The naughty and nice decorations spotlighted the characteristics and economies of congressional districts across the United States and revealed the taste in decor among both members and their staffs.

While some stayed close to traditional blue-and-yellow menorahs or Christmas trees adorned with glittering bulbs, others strayed into heated political territory, or just simply displayed their Star Wars obsession.

A sign outside Rep. Derek Kilmer’s office read “Join the nice cosponsor list this holiday season!”

Giant lightsabers criss-crossed the Washington Democrat’s door and paper ornaments hung describing each of the 18 bills he’s introduced this year alongside cartoons of “Jedi Derek Kilmer.”

Iowa’s Rep. Zach Nunn leaned hard into his state’s proud farming culture and exhibited a clever Christmas twist on Grant Wood’s 1930 “American Gothic” painting. A little bright-pink light-up pig also sits on a pile of presents just outside the Iowa Republican’s door.

“At any one time, there are approximately 24 million pigs being raised in Iowa,” according to the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

Rep. Jennifer Wexton played on a holiday cartoon classic and a popular Virginia export. Charlie Brown and the Peanuts crew make an appearance beside the Democrat’s office door. Tiny clothespins hanging from twine hold packets of the commonwealth’s famous salty snacks, and a sign reads “All I want for Christmas is Virginia Peanuts…”

 Freshman Democratic Congressman Chris Deluzio played on Western Pennsylvania themes in holiday decorations photographed Dec. 19 in the Longworth House Office Building. (Photo by Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)
Freshman Democratic Congressman Chris Deluzio played on Western Pennsylvania themes in holiday decorations photographed Dec. 19 in the Longworth House Office Building. (Photo by Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)

Not far down the hallway, an impossible-to-miss inflatable cow stands near a milking bench wrapped in red festive reindeer paper just to the left of Wisconsin GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher’s door. A bulletin board above the cow covered in Green Bay Packers logos featured what can be described as the 12 days of Wisconsin Christmas. “Four Lombardi Trophies,” “Nine Rotaries a-Milking,” “Twelve sturgeon swimming” … you get the idea.

Gallagher’s office picked up the victory in the unsanctioned competition. The Wisconsin congressman’s office helped organize the holiday fun.

“To stir up some Christmas cheer around the halls of Congress, I challenged everyone on the second floor of Longworth to a Christmas decorating competition and I have to admit, I was very impressed by the level of participation this year,” Gallagher said in a statement to States Newsroom Wednesday.

“But let’s be serious, nothing could come close to beating the spectacular Northeast Wisconsin Christmas wonderland that my office created. From Packers ornaments to a Miller lite chair to the 12 days of a Northeast Wisconsin Christmas, we had the competition won from the start,” Gallagher concluded.

“Rigged!” cried a rival House aide about Gallagher’s triumph.

“Blowups take no work! We built ours from scratch,” said the House aide, who initially was not speaking publicly on the matter.

He quickly changed course and released his identity as Matthew Koos, chief of staff for Rep. Chris Deluzio. “I stand by that (comment),” he said.

 Holiday decorations outside Georgia Republican Congressman Mike Collins’ office, on Tuesday, Dec. 19 in the Longworth House Office Building, included a bag of coal for Hamas. (Photo by Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)
Holiday decorations outside Georgia Republican Congressman Mike Collins’ office, on Tuesday, Dec. 19 in the Longworth House Office Building, included a bag of coal for Hamas. (Photo by Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)

The holiday trinkets at freshman Pennsylvania Democrat Deluzio’s door are candy for the eyes of Western Pennsylvanians — a black-and-gold stuffed Pittsburgh Penguin, a yellow construction paper bridge and a Christmas tree made of stacked Iron City beer cans.

(Full disclosure: Your States Newsroom correspondent is a Western Pennsylvania native.)

Aluminum cans also made an appearance in the display outside GOP Rep. Mike Collins’ office.

A stack of beer cans adorned with a green garland stood next to a Santa holding a “naughty list” featuring Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and her administration’s parking enforcement, the Chinese Communist Party, and “continuing resolutions,” in reference to temporary government funding packages.

A large bag of coal with a tag reading “To Hamas” sat beneath Collins’ tree, alongside some wrapped gifts from China’s President Xi Jinping, including one addressed to “Quid Pro Joe,” a Republican dig at President Joe Biden.

Holiday decorations outside the office of GOP Rep. Eli Crane (Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)
Holiday decorations outside the office of GOP Rep. Eli Crane (Ashley Murray/States Newsroom)

Adding to the Georgia congressman’s festive arrangement was a cardboard cutout of pop singer Mariah Carey in a Santa outfit with the words “All I want for Christmas is 12 Appropriations bills!” written above her head.

A far cry from that display, freshman Arizona GOP Rep. Eli Crane used immigration at the U.S. Southern border as his theme.

A candy-cane-patterned border gate blocked his door with green-and-red signs reading “Port of Entry” and “Have Documents Ready.” A separate office entrance cautioned: “Border Patrol Elves Only.”

On the other side of the Capitol, U.S. senators stayed beyond their scheduled holiday recess to attempt negotiations attaching U.S. immigration policy changes to the president’s request for Ukraine aid. A deal is not expected until 2024 and senators left Wednesday for the holiday recess.

Crane’s fellow Arizona colleague, Democratic Rep. Raúl Grijalva, adorned his hallway section with papel picado, a traditional perforated paper garland popular in Mexico and other former Spanish colonies. A nearby tall artificial cactus stood wrapped in white lights and topped with a red cowboy hat.

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Ashley Murray
Ashley Murray

Ashley Murray covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include domestic policy and appropriations.

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