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A White House Christmas: Prestige & Parody

by Countable | 11.30.17

The National Christmas Tree

D.C.’s oldest tradition takes place Thursday night. Nope, not arguing about taxes. It’s the 95th annual National Christmas Tree lighting. (But also arguing about taxes.)

President Calvin Coolidge began the tradition on Christmas Eve, 1923, when he lit a Christmas tree in front of 3,000 spectators on the Ellipse, the park located just south of the White House fence. Every president since then has carried on the tradition of causing massive traffic jams in Washington.

This year, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump will continue that tradition, joined by Boys II Bow Ties, Craig Campbell, Jack Wagner, Mannheim Steamroller, The Beach Boys, Wynonna, and the U.S. Navy Band. Kathie Lee Gifford and Dean Cain will host the annual event, a joint effort between the National Park Service and National Park Foundation.

Christmas at the White House 2017

Each December, the White House goes full Thomas Kinkade with Christmas trees, wreaths, garland, lights, and gingerbread houses.

FLOTUS Melania Trump designed this year’s theme, "Time Honored Traditions." Created to “pay respect to 200 years of holiday traditions at the White House,” decorations include 53 Christmas trees with over 12,000 ornaments, 18,000 feet of Christmas lights, 71 wreaths, and a 350 pound Gingerbread house.

The East Room is also displaying the White House Crèche, an 18th century terra cotta and wood nativity scene. Visitors will also catch a glimpse of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1866 edition of "A Christmas Carol" and Richard Nixon’s 1972 edition of “Profiles In Cowardice.”

"The President, Barron, and I are very excited for our first Christmas in the White House," the first lady wrote in a Nov. 27 statement. “As with many families across the country, holiday traditions are very important to us. I hope when visiting the People’s House this year, visitors will get a sense of being home for the holidays.”

A picture of the decorations at night, however, has had some twitter users not getting that sense.

Twitterers took that official White House pic and added some decorations of their own:

Hoping to take a live (daytime) tour? Better ask Santa for a time machine—White House Christmas Tour requests need to be submitted in September. However, you may be able to get in on a Congressional Member's Pass (distributed monthly by the White House Visitors Office).

It’s also not too late to buy the official 2017 White House Christmas Ornament. Proceeds go to the Pentagon’s ongoing efforts to combat the War On Christmas.

Ghosts of Christmas Past In The White House

  • The tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree was begun by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961; she decorated the tree with ornamental toys, birds, angels, and characters from the "Nutcracker Suite."

  • In 1969, as the White House Historical Association explained, First Lady Patricia Nixon "arranged for disabled workers in Florida to make velvet and satin balls featuring each states official flower" for the American Flowers Tree.

  • The mid-90s saw The Gingrich Who Stole Christmas (it wasn’t completely Newt’s fault, but the pun is too good to pass up). In 1995, the Christmas Tree display was closed due to a federal budget showdown.

  • As Countable explained in our piece "Does President Trump Need A Pet?", George W. Bush’s two Scottish Terriers - Barney and Mrs. Beazley - were featured in a series of White House Christmas videos:
  • In 2015, the Obamas took advantage of then-novel YouTube technology, releasing a 360 holiday tour of the White House:

—Josh Herman

Related Reading

(Photo Credit: Banner National Tree photo / Official White House House Photo)

(Photo Credit: Calvin Coolidge with family / Library of Congress)

(Photo Credit: JFK and Jackie Kennedy / John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)

(Photo Credit: 1995 Budget Showdown - AP Photo / Mark Wilson)

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