White House Christmas Traditions

The White House has a tradition of decorating for Christmas. This wasn’t always the case, and there has been plenty of room for variety over the years. Sometimes, there were no decorations at all.

The first White House Christmas party was held in December of 1800. President John Adams and First Lady Abigal Adams held it for their four-year-old granddaughter Susana Boylston Adams, who was living with them. They invited government officials and their children to the party.

The first known Christmas tree in the White House was in 1889, during the Benjamin Harrison administration. It was placed upstairs in the Second Floor Oval Room. At the time, the room was used as a family parlor and library. The tree was decorated with candles for the Harrison’s grandchildren.

Electricity was installed in the White House in 1891. The first electric lights on a family Christmas tree were used in 1894 during the Grover Cleveland presidency.

In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. It is now held every year on the White House lawn.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree in the Blue Room in 1961. That year, the tree was decorated with ornamental toys, birds, angels, and characters from the “Nutcracker Suite” ballet.

Since 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has given a Christmas tree to the President and first family.

In 1969, White House Assistant Executive Chef Hans Raffert created a traditional German A-Frame gingerbread house for the Nixons’ first Christmas in the White House. This became an annual tradition during the Richard Nixon administration and continues today.

In 1979, during the Jimmy Carter administration, the National Christmas Tree was not lighted except for the top ornament. This was done in honor of the American hostages in Iran.

Related Articles on FamilyTree.com:

The White House Closet Christmas Tree

American Christmas Traditions from Germany

Christmas Tree Lights – 1880 – 1882 – 1917

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