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Monday, December 07, 2009

The White House Christmas Tree

It's Christmas at the White House...
... and there's no better way to mark the beginning of the holiday season than the lighting of the White House Christmas Tree. Not to be confused with the National Christmas Tree, which the President lights on the White House ellipse every year, the White House Christmas Tree is the First Family's official tree. It's typically positioned in the Blue Room, a public space for all White House visitors to see.

The first indoor tree was used in 1889 by Benjamin Harrison and his family. Ever since that tree it has been the tradition that the First Lady decorated the official tree. Over the next several decades there were periods that there was not an official tree. Starting in 1929 the official tree became an unbroken tradition that continues up to today.

In 1961 First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of the official tree being decorated using a different theme every year.

 It's never decorated with religious ornaments, instead it's often adorned with a variety of secular ornaments, like bird figurines, historic homes, musical instruments, Victorian dolls, even Wilbur the Pig. Last year, for example, First Lady Laura Bush's "A Red, White and Blue Christmas," tree was hung with over 350 ornaments hand-decorated by artists from around the country. The White House announced, "Each ornament was specially designed to characterize the unique, patriotic spirit of the artist's state, district or territory."

The first themed tree in 1961 was dedicated to the Nutcracker Ballet. This included ornamental tree toys. These were reused in 1962 on Mrs.Kennedy's children's themed tree. In addition to these reused ornaments, she also used straw ornaments that had been made by seniors and disabled people from around the country. Disabled people's skills for making ornaments have been used over the years to make ornaments for other First Ladies.

The 1989 theme chosen by First Lady Barbara Bush was family literacy. The theme incorporated ornaments that represented characters from books. These ornaments were made by White House staff. The White House staff that were talented in handicraft also helped to make the ornaments for her 1990 Nutcracker theme, harking back to the theme that Jacqueline Kennedy used in 1961. The theme was again done by Hillary Clinton in 1996.

The 2000 tree theme was called Holiday Reflections and featured a combination of ornaments from the years that Hillary Clinton was the First Lady. The themes represented included her Nutcracker version, Santa's Workshop with glass ornaments, A Winter Wonderland with fabric ornaments from the 50 states, Holiday Treasures at the White House with toy ornaments, Angels, and The Twelve Days of Christmas.

 First Lady Laura Bush decorated her first White House tree in the theme of Home for the Holidays. The theme included replicas of historic homes from all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The 2003 theme was A Season of Stories, which was similar to the 1989 theme, with its storybook characters decor. The most recent theme is the 2007 Holiday in the National Park theme, which features ornaments from National Parks around the country.

First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the 2009 White House Christmas Tree last week. The theme this year is "Reflect, Rejoice and Renew," and the tree  features over 800 ornaments re-decorated by 60 American communities, celebrating local monuments and institutions. There are ornaments featuring the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore as well as some lesser known national landmarks.

This year's beautiful tree...
And a few more from our recent past...

We finished our outdoor decorating Saturday and, with the exception of a tweak here and there, have finished up inside as well. The gifts have all been purchased and I am starting my cards tomorrow. The season seems to be in full swing! I helped set up our church's annual craft fair/cookie walk on Friday and attended on Saturday. I am blessed to be a small part of such a loving and generous group of people. It was a delight to work with them.

This week we have numerous holiday activities to enjoy! Tuesday evening is the women's group's Christmas get together at church & Wednesday we wrap gifts for the children of a local church that works directly with needy families. That is always fun.  The children join in to help wrap gifts that are provided for them to give their parents. Their faces just glow!

Friday evening we are attending Broadway Holiday downtown at The Victoria Theater. It will be an evening of the greatest Broadway music and seasonal songs presented by several talented Broadway performers. I am quite excited about that!

Saturday we are going on a holiday house tour in one of the older sections of Dayton. I hope to get lots of pictures to share with you!

Saturday night we are going to Bill's office's annual get together.

And so the Christmas season rush is a busy time but isn't it sweet?

AND...we had snow this morning!

I have a few seasonal photos to share but that will wait until tomorrow...

I hope you are all well and enjoying all the magic that December brings!

Love and Hugs,
Susie Q


Lynilu said...

What interesting trivia, Sue! Hey are you trying to steal my Tuesday Trivia schtick? ;D It's OK. I think there's enough trivia out there for the both of us. I seriously did enjoy it though.

Sounds like you're going to be busy. That's one of the blessings and banes of the season, isn't it? I love the parties and seeing friends, and really, it's no bane. Well, not till one collapses from exhaustion! Enjoy!

Pat@Back Porch Musings said...

Sue, have you seen the new book Christmas in the White House? Joni had a post about it the other day. My Christmas present is ordered!!:-) Gorgeous book!

Carolyn said...

Great Post!

Rebecca Ramsey said...

What a lovely post. The trees are incredible. Now I feel all Christmassy!

salmagundi said...

I got goosebumps reading this post. So many beautiful White House trees, and I was thinking about all of the people all over the country that have been involved throughout the years. Then, you know I love hearing about all of your family activities. Guess I live vicariously through you since we aren't as active as we used to be. We are going to three get-togethers this week however, then having people here for lunch after church on Sunday. Enjoy your week. Sally

Cass @ That Old House said...

Great post - I actually got tears in my eyes, looking at the trees thru the years in the White House. Beautiful.

We were supposed to finish our outdoor decorating this weekend, but sudden family obligations intervened. I'm playing catch-up!


Deb said...

Beautiful post Sue! It sounds like you have a fun, busy Holiday schedule ... Enjoy every minute of it ♥ Kate says hello!

Cottage Rose said...

Hi Susie; I really enjoyed reading your post,, I loved all the wonderful history of the all the Trees in the White House, I never miss it when HGTV shows how it all came together... thanks for sharing.. have a great week.


Christmas at the White House said...

I love your blog! It's so original and fun. Since you love Christmas, I wanted to tell you about a friend of mine's new book called Christmas at the White House. The author, Jennifer Pickens, spent 4 years researching how Christmas was celebrated at the White House, from the Kennedy years to the last Bush administration (the Obamas hadn't had a Xmas in the White House yet). It's a gorgeous book with more than 400 photos and she even got all six living first ladies to write about their holiday memories for the book. Click on my name above to go to her website, or go here,

Rue said...

Hi Sue :)

I hadn't seen the Obama tree yet, so I'm glad you showed it. I always loved the trees from the Bush eras :)

Sounds like you're a busy bee these days, just like me. Remember to take a deep breath and drink a hot cocoa ;)


~Sheila~ said...

Sue I enjoyed reading about the White House trees.It sounds like you are already to celebrate the Season. I send you and your family my love and best wishes for a Happy Christmas.
Big hugs

Kelly said...

Thank you for the history lesson. That was great. I didn't know any of that information. It was very interesting.

PEA said...

Oh wow, that's what I call a HUGE tree! I hadn't seen the Obama's tree yet so what a treat to finally see a picture of's gorgeous! It was so interesting to read how past First Ladies had chosen to decorate the tree.

You certainly do have a very busy schedule this month but oh how much fun it's all going to be:-) xoxo