Heard on the Hill

Nuts About Nutcrackers

‘I believe in celebrating every year, but this year, more than ever, we need some holiday cheer,’ Debbie Dingell says

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said her husband, John Dingell, didn’t decorate when he was in office. (Bian Elkhatib/CQ Roll Call)

HOH went looking for a winter wonderland on Capitol Hill and found one on the first floor of the Cannon House Office Building.

Rep. Debbie Dingell takes decorating very seriously.

“I believe in celebrating every year, but this year, more than ever, we need some holiday cheer,” the Michigan Democrat said.

Flanking the main door of her office are two life-size nutcrackers, which light up and play music. On the door is a wreath with more nutcrackers hanging from it.

Watch: Inside Debbie Dingell’s Festive Office

“We have nutcrackers. I love nutcrackers, but I also think that rituals and traditions are a very important part of the holidays — they’re the glue that holds us together, that keep generations together,” Dingell said.

Her office has so much cheer that a colleague across the hall, Republican Rep. Francis Rooney, has tried to keep up. He put a Christmas flamingo, in Florida fashion, outside his office.

Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., decorated the outside of his office with a holiday flamingo. (Bian Elkhatib/ CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., decorated the outside of his office with a holiday flamingo. (Bian Elkhatib/CQ Roll Call)

Dingell and her husband, former Rep. John D. Dingell, have traditionally celebrated the holiday season with the famous, “Dingell Jingle,” a poem they write to commemorate the year and look ahead to the next.

“We are in the process of writing the Dingell Jingle, and Mr. Dingell himself is contributing,” she said. “It’s a way for him to not be a Scrooge, which he can sometimes be. It will truly be a Dingell Jingle — both Dingells.”

The congresswoman dominates as lead decorator for the Dingell family. When Mr. Dingell was in Congress, he did not decorate his office.

“No. He was a Scrooge. I am not a Scrooge,” the congresswoman said. “Our holiday season is a definitive merger of two different approaches.”

When visitors enter Dingell’s reception area, they are greeted by a Christmas tree decorated with red, white and blue ornaments. The color scheme matches the office’s everyday decor, which includes patriotic quilts and trinkets.

“I’ve only been in office for three years, [but] everybody back home knows that I love patriotic everything. I’ve been collecting patriotic Uncle Sams for a long time,” she said.

Poinsettias bloom in the corners of the reception space, and wreaths hang on the walls, alongside photographs of the Dingells at White House holiday parties hosted by Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama over the years.

Enter her office, and there are — you guessed it — more nutcrackers. An even bigger nutcracker than the ones in the hallway sits next to the congresswoman’s desk, glowing and playing music.

“I mean, this year, to tell you the truth, I have hundreds of nutcrackers,” she said about her collection, which expands to her home in Michigan.

For her, it’s all about getting in the holiday spirit.

“I really do think holidays are a special time, whatever your culture is, to remind us of what we are — family and community — and to celebrate with each other,” she said. “To take time to celebrate the good times because we sure focus on the negative too much.”

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