First Lady Mary Pat Christie unveils the State's 2012 Christmas Tree OrnamentFirst Lady Mary Pat Christie today unveiled the State’s 2011 National Christmas Tree ornament during a visit to the Amanda’s Easel Art Studios. Created by the children and families who use the organization’s creative arts therapy program to heal from the impacts of domestic violence, the ornaments use painted birdhouses and symbols of New Jersey to represent both pride in the Garden State, as well as the mission of Amanda’s Easel to provide every child a safe home.

“I’m so touched by these beautiful hand-made ornaments created by Amanda’s Easel participants. These children and families are experiencing the challenges of life transitions and they are a true inspiration to us all for the strength and dignity they exhibit every day,” said Mrs. Christie. “The Governor and I are proud that these ornaments, which symbolize the pride and hope of our state, will adorn the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. this holiday season.”

One of America's Oldest Traditions

The National Christmas Tree Lighting, which began on Christmas Eve in 1923, is one of America’s oldest holiday traditions. At the time, President Calvin Coolidge lit a Christmas tree in front of 3,000 spectators on the Ellipse in President’s Park. Since 1923, each succeeding President has carried on the tradition of what now has become a month-long event presented by the National Park Foundation and National Park Service. 

Each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia select a local artist and local youth to design and create 24 ornaments for the National Christmas Tree display. Twenty-three of the ornaments will be hung from the state or territory tree aspart of the National Christmas Tree display in President’s Park. One of the ornaments will decorate the White House Visitor Center Christmas tree, which showcases one ornament from all 56 states, territories and the District of Columbia.

“It is an honor for us to create New Jersey’s National Christmas Tree ornament,” said Anna Diaz-White, Executive Director, 180 Turning Lives Around. “The families of Amanda’s Easel are such special people. They are survivors of domestic violence and this project has provided a wonderful opportunity to use art therapy to help the families use their creativity to express their feelings, heal and find joy during the holiday season.”

Amanda’s Easel is a program of the Monmouth County non-profit 180 Turning Lives Around, Inc. which is dedicated to ending domestic violence and sexual assault. Formed in 1997, Amanda's Easel Creative Arts Therapy is a comprehensive art therapy program for children ages 6-13, and their non-offending parent, who have been affected by domestic violence. 180 Turning Lives Around provides programs and services in the areas of crisis intervention, compassionate support, court advocacy, community education, professional training and prevention. To find out more about 180 Turning Lives Around, visit

Photo: First Lady Mary Pat Christie admires the 2011 New Jersey National Christmas Tree Ornament created by Amanda’s Easel Art Therapy Program in Hazlet, NJ