First Lady Michelle Obama Decorates Christmas Issue of Ladies' Home Journal

Obama shares favorite family traditions and her holiday playlist.

Posted: 11/26/2013 10:55 AM EST

(Photo: Courtesy of Ladies' Home Journal)

A glowing Michelle Obama lights up the December/January cover of Ladies' Home Journal, which hits newsstands on Tuesday. Inside, the first lady dishes about family holiday traditions, including one that began during her childhood.

"Our extended family was so large, people couldn't really afford to buy gifts for everyone. So a couple of my aunts would go out and purchase small gifts," she said. "They would put them in a basket and in order to get a gift you had to perform. You could tell a joke, read a poem, do a backflip — anything counted. It's a tradition that we've carried on today."

More recently, Obama added, she's "hula-hooped, done a dog trick with Bo and read poems." President Obama likes to perform a song with fathers of some of the families who have joined them for the Christmas holidays.

Although the Obamas are much more prosperous now than when they were growing up — and could give their children virtually anything they ask for — gifts are a perk but not the highlight of their Christmases.

"I'll tell my kids, think of three things that you want. And it turns out they usually don't have much on their lists, because they understand that anything they need they already have," the first lady explained. "The kids are not in the habit of viewing Christmas as a time for getting gifts. It's about spending time with family and gathering with friends."

Each year, volunteers converge on the White House to decorate dozens of Christmas trees, but Malia and Sasha like to decorate one themselves.

"Usually it's the tree in the Yellow Oval Room. We'll have hot chocolate, light a fire no matter what the weather is, get out a basket of decorations, and then I'll put on the first holiday music of the season," Obama said. "I have a phenomenal playlist that includes, of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas, as well as James Taylor, Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men, and Nat King Cole. The kids tease me that they know it's Christmas when I pull out my playlist."

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