Presidents and Christmas
Christmas became a national holiday in 1870. In 1889, the first indoor decorated Christmas tree was placed in the White House, and in 1895, electric lights were added. In 1923, the first National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony was held. In 1953, the first White House Christmas card was created by President Dwight Eisenhower who was also an artist/painter. President Kennedy’s 1963 Christmas card was the first to include an explicitly Christian aspect: the nativity.
In 1982, Ronald Reagan said, “My fellow Americans, the Christmas and Hanukkah decorations are up around the country, and in a moment we’ll be lighting the National Christmas Tree here in the Nation’s Capital… Some celebrate the day as marking the birth of a great and good man, a wise teacher and prophet, and they do so sincerely. But for many of us, it’s also a holy day, the birthday of the Prince of Peace, a day when ‘God so loved the world, that He sent us His only begotten son to assure forgiveness of our sins.’” (John 3:16)
In 2001, the first White House Christmas card to contain a scripture was chosen by Laura Bush. It quoted Psalm 27: “Thy face, Lord, do I seek. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living.”
Last year, President Obama said this: “For 89 years, presidents and Americans have come together to light the National Christmas Tree… But we all know that this tradition is much larger than any single tree. And tonight, once again, we gather here not simply to light some decorations, but to honor a story that lights the world. More than 2,000 years ago, a child was born to two faithful travelers, who could find rest only in a stable, among the cattle and the sheep. But this was not just any child. Christ’s birth made the angels rejoice and attracted shepherds and kings from afar. He was a manifestation of God’s love for us. And He grew up to become a leader with a servant’s heart who taught us a message as simple as it is powerful—that we should love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves. That teaching has come to encircle the globe. It has endured for generations. And today, it lies at the heart of my Christian faith and that of millions of Americans. No matter who we are, or where we come from, or how we worship, it’s a message that can unite all of us on this holiday season.”
John (JP) Pasquale
Livingston Manor, NY