WASHINGTON — Federal agencies are famous for their rules, regulations and paperwork. During the holidays, however, many step out of the gray and flaunt a bit of seasonal spirit, offering themed ornaments for sale, some from surprising sources.
The White House Historical Association's annual ornament and the one from the U.S. Capitol Historical Society are well known, of course.
Agencies you might not have expected also want in on holiday cheer, however. The Pentagon and the service branches offer several ornaments. The CIA has one. Even the super-secret National Security Agency, best known for eavesdropping on electronic communications around the world, has one. One year, not surprisingly, it was a satellite dish.
The White House Historical Association has been selling White House-themed ornaments since 1981. This year's, for the second time, celebrates President Grover Cleveland.
Want to own an authentic piece of the Capitol? The medallion in the center of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society's ornament is a piece of stone taken from the Capitol's east steps, which were removed during renovations in the mid-1990s.
The Supreme Court's gift shop has been selling ornaments since 1996. This year's features the court building's facade; last year's was a small "gift box" that looked like the building.
The Library of Congress' ornament quotes Thomas Jefferson telling John Adams, "I cannot live without books."
The State Department doesn't revise its ornament yearly, but it does have four varieties for sale on its Web site.
The Pentagon may offer the most variety. Besides a medallion engraved with an image of the Pentagon, there are ornaments for each of the five service branches. There's also a DOD All Services group ornament with all the services represented.
This year, the National Security Agency is offering a filigreed star, the winner of a design competition the agency has held annually among its employees since 2004.
Prices for the ornaments vary from $7.95 for the Pentagon's pewter medallion to $22.95 for the Supreme Court's 2009 ornament.
A percentage of proceeds from the Pentagon's DOD ornament sales goes to the Wounded Warrior Project at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
The NSA's Civilian Welfare Fund, which receives proceeds from the sales of the agency's ornament, says the sales barely cover costs and that the project is primarily a way to boost agency morale. The ornament is available at the National Cryptologic Museum's gift shop.
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