Christmas traditions of America’s First Families

By Karin Caifa

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Twenty-six Christmas trees, a 300 pound gingerbread house, and “Sunny” and “Bo-bots.”

Even though the Obamas aren’t at home for the holidays, the White House is fully decked.

“Here at the White House, the holidays are a chance for us to show what our country is grateful for this holiday season,” said Michelle Obama.

It seems like a tradition that’s been around forever. But a holiday theme chosen by the First Lady, like this year’s winter wonderland, is a relatively recent phenomenon.

“The actual Christmas theme didn’t actually start until Mrs. Kennedy in 1961,” said Leslie Jones, the curator of the White Hite House Historical Association. “And that was with The Nutcracker Suite.”

Mrs. Kenny chose The Nutcracker because of young Caroline’s ballet studies. Hillary Clinton would revisit the theme with Chelsea in 1996.

White House Historical Association Curator Leslie Jones says themes reflect the interests, and passions of the first family.

Barbara Bush drew upon her needlepoint hobby for 1991. Laura Bush highlighted literacy in 2003, and throughout Michelle Obama’s décor, a focus on military families.

Despite the number of visitors the White House hosts throughout the season that get the opportunity to see the more public displays of décor, First Families do still have a chance to keep some traditions to themselves.

“There are quarters within the house that are private and the family usually has their own tree there, their own ornaments on it,” said William Bushong, White House Historical Association Chief Historian. “The types of things that are handcrafted by the children of the household, that sort of thing, and those are much beloved.”

William Bushon says the first known Christmas tree wasn’t until 1889 – a request of Benjamin Harrison, for his children and grandchildren. Five years later, Grover Cleveland’s family had the first White House tree with electric lights. And one First Family had to sneak a tree past their Commander in Chief.

“Roosevelt didn’t really agree or enjoy the idea of having Christmas trees in the house, because he was such an avid conservationist, but he did buckle under to his children’s wishes,” said Bushong.

3 Comments on this post.

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  • filam
    25 December 2014 at 6:38 pm - Reply

    Going on vacation in hawaii…while most Americans are struggling
    To put food on the table

  • noz
    26 December 2014 at 7:44 am - Reply

    obozo is one big phony, as the head of his family, his phoniness is extended to his own family members. case in point, obozo and his wife were interviewed, admitted not into giving christmas presents to their daughters. obozo was raised by his muslim stepfather, early life lived in a muslim nation, grade school educated in a muslim setting. so what do you expect?, obozo is into faking christmas celebrations as the POTUS, as part to stay in power. leaving the WH fully decorated with christmas symbols are something this first family cannot stand and have to get away to HI, where they all cannot get away with christmas anyway. they all have to go as far as kenya or muslim nations to not see the christmas decors, be free of the spirit of christmas.

  • IvotedforObama
    29 December 2014 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    Stop blaming the government for your misfortune.