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Beaming Donald and elegant Melania are joined by maskless family, Rudy Giuliani and Matt Gaetz

Donald and Melania Trump returned to the New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago after skipping last year’s lavish gala in the wake of his election defeat.

Sources close to the former president had told DailyMail.com Friday that he was expected to attend this year’s black-tie gathering and attendees posted shots of the former first couple at the gala before midnight. 

Trump was in a tuxedo, with wife Melania in a shimmering silver gown.  

Several other Trumpworld favorites were in attendance, including former New York City Mayor and attorney for Trump Rudy Giuliani, Congressman Matt Gaetz – who attended with his fiance Ginger Luckey despite his ongoing sex trafficking investigation – and son Eric, who was with wife Lara and their children.  

Donald and Melania Trump returned to the New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago (pictured) after skipping last year’s lavish gala in the wake of his election defeat

Former President Trump beams a smile as he greets guests at Mar-a-Lago resort for the gala event

Former President Trump beams a smile as he greets guests at Mar-a-Lago resort for the gala event

Several other Trumpworld favorites were in attendance, including former New York City Mayor and attorney for Trump Rudy Giuliani

Several other Trumpworld favorites were in attendance, including former New York City Mayor and attorney for Trump Rudy Giuliani

Eric Trump and his wife Lara say goodbye to their children before attending Eric's father's New Year's Eve gala

Eric Trump and his wife Lara say goodbye to their children before attending Eric’s father’s New Year’s Eve gala

Matt Gaetz and his fiance Ginger Luckey were in attendance at the gala, despite Gaetz's ongoing sex trafficking investigation

Matt Gaetz and his fiance Ginger Luckey were in attendance at the gala, despite Gaetz’s ongoing sex trafficking investigation

Eric and Lara were enjoying the festivities at Mar-a-Lago New Year's Eve alongside Eric's father

Eric and Lara were enjoying the festivities at Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve alongside Eric’s father

Trump was going to attend last year but changed his mind when he was in Palm Beach for the holiday season and expected to drop by the gala, as he usually does. 

Instead, in an unusual move, the former first couple opted to return to Washington D.C. on December 31st and skipped the party, where guests had paid up to $1,000 a ticket.

They returned to the White House where Trump focused on the upcoming certification of Joe Biden’s election victory in Congress, which took place on January 6th after the Capitol was cleared of MAGA supporters who stormed the building in an attempt to disrupt the process.  

Donald and Melania Trump had Christmas Eve dinner at Mar a Lago last week

Donald and Melania Trump had Christmas Eve dinner at Mar a Lago last week 

The former president and first lady had Christmas Eve dinner with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump

The former president and first lady had Christmas Eve dinner with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump has her arm around Jared Kushner (left) as President Trump speaks to a guest

Ivanka Trump has her arm around Jared Kushner (left) as President Trump speaks to a guest

For Christmas dinner, Melania Trump wore the $7,450 Elie Saab dress she wore to a July 2018 NATO meeting in Belgium (above)

For Christmas dinner, Melania Trump wore the $7,450 Elie Saab dress she wore to a July 2018 NATO meeting in Belgium (above)

Donald and Melania Trump are, in a tradition that predates his presidency, spending the cold weather months at his Palm Beach club with its Atlantic Ocean views.

The Trumps had Christmas Eve dinner at Mar-a-Lago, where they ate with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. The two couples sat alone at a table in the private club’s main ballroom. 

Photos and video posted to social media show the Trumps got a standing ovation as they walked through the ballroom to the table where Jared and Ivanka waited for them. 

Unlike when he was president, the table was not roped off from the rest of the guests. 

Former President Trump waved to the crowd as he made his way to his spot.  Both Melania and Ivanka wore white dresses for the festive occasion. Melania wore the same $7,450 Elie Saab dress she wore to a July 2018 NATO meeting in Belgium.

The New Year’s Eve gala comes as Florida, like most areas of the country, sees a massive spike in COVID cases as the highly-transmissible Omicron variant gathers steam.

In the past seven days, the state has added 26,537 cases per day on average, according to Miami Herald calculations of CDC data. That rolling seven-day case average is the highest it’s been since Aug. 23, when it was at 29,334. 

On Wednesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who Trump clashed with during the COVID pandemic, recommended against large New Year’s Eve gatherings. 

‘If your plans are to go to a 40-to-50 person New Year’s Eve party with all the bells and whistles and everybody hugging and kissing and wishing each other a Happy New Year? I would strongly recommend that, this year, we do not do that,’ Fauci said. 

The main ballroom of Mar-a-Lago – with its white paneling and gold-plated decor – can hold 700 people and there are smaller ballrooms available to add to the crowd size. 

Social media postings show the ballroom was crowded with guests for Christmas and nary a face mask in sight. Florida recommends but does not require face masks for the general public.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a close ally of Trump’s who has dined multiple times at Mar-a-Lago, has been defiant about recommended COVID restrictions. He issued an executive order on May 3 that barred local governments and school systems from imposing COVID-19 restrictions, including face mask rules.

Donald Trump waves to the crowd as he arrives for Christmas dinner

Donald Trump waves to the crowd as he arrives for Christmas dinner

Trump gives his signature thumbs' up sign; Jared Kushner is seated at the table behind him

Trump gives his signature thumbs’ up sign; Jared Kushner is seated at the table behind him

Donald and Melania Trump missed last year's New Year's Eve gala, returning to Washington D.C. on Dec. 31, 2020

Donald and Melania Trump missed last year’s New Year’s Eve gala, returning to Washington D.C. on Dec. 31, 2020  

New Year's 2020: Melania listens as Trump speaks at his New Year's Eve Gala on December 31, 2019 ¿ ringing in 2020

New Year’s 2020: Melania listens as Trump speaks at his New Year’s Eve Gala on December 31, 2019 – ringing in 2020

The tradition of New Year’s Eve at Mar-a-Lago goes back years for the former president.

The black-tie gala is one of the highlights of the private club’s social calendar. Trump likes to work the room, talking to guests and posing for selfies.

At past New Year’s Eve parties, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have attended with their children. Donald Trump Jr. and girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle typically make an appearance as do Eric Trump and Lara Trump along with Tiffany Trump and her fiance Michael Boulos.

Prominent Trump friends like Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Matt Gaetz have also made an appearance. 

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk