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Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah at the White House

Posted by: Audiegrl
Written by Kori Schulman

Last night, President Obama, Vice President Biden and the First Lady welcomed friends and leaders from the Jewish community to celebrate the second night of Hanukkah at the White House. “So on this second night of Hanukkah,” said President Obama, “Let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy. Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is “a confirmation of what is possible.”

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Before lighting the menorah, the President delivered remarks:

Now, tonight, we gather to celebrate a story as simple as it is timeless. It’s a story of ancient Israel, suffering under the yoke of empire, where Jews were forbidden to practice their religion openly, and the Holy Temple — including the holy of holies — had been desecrated.

It was then that a small band of believers, led by Judah Maccabee, rose up to take back their city and free their people.  And when the Maccabees entered the temple, the oil that should have lasted for a single night ended up burning for eight.

That miracle gave hope to all those who had been struggling in despair.  And in the 2,000 years since, in every corner of the world, the tiny candles of Hanukkah have reminded us of the importance of faith and perseverance. They have illuminated a path for us when the way forward was shrouded in darkness.

And as we prepare to light another candle on the menorah, let us remember the sacrifices that others have made so that we may all be free. Let us pray for the members of our military who guard that freedom every day, and who may be spending this holiday far away from home.

Let us also think of those for whom these candles represent not just a triumph of the past, but also hope for the future — the men, women and children of all faiths who still suffer under tyranny and oppression.

That’s why families everywhere are taught to place the menorah in public view, so the entire world can see its light. Because, as the Talmud teaches us, “So long as a person still has life, they should never abandon faith.”

Ben Retik lights the Menorah as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the Hanukkah Candle Lighting ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2010 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Ben Retik lights the Menorah as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the Hanukkah Candle Lighting ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

He continued, explaining how the menorah and the family who helped light it both stand as symbols of that faith:

This beautiful menorah has been generously loaned to us by Congregation Beth Israel in New Orleans. Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina hit, the synagogue was covered in eight feet of water.   Later, as the cleanup crew dug through the rubble, they discovered this menorah, caked in dirt and mold.  And today it stands as a reminder of the tragedy and a source of inspiration for the future.

And that feeling is shared by Susan Retik. It’s a feeling they know all too well.  After her husband, David, was killed on September 11th, Susan could have easily lost herself in feelings of hopelessness and grief.  But instead, she turned her personal loss into a humanitarian mission — co-founding “Beyond the 11th,” a group that reaches out to Afghan widows facing their own struggles.

So on this second night of Hanukkah, let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy.  Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is “a confirmation of what is possible.”

Ed. Note: In August 2010, Susan Retik was awarded the 2010 Presidential Citizens Medal for advancing women’s rights and the power of America’s ideals. The Medal is among the highest honors a civilian can recieve. Watch a video of her story here.

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Origins and Traditions of Hanukkah

Hanukkah (also known as Chanukah, Hanukah, Hannuka and the Festival of Lights) is an eight-day Jewish holiday that usually takes place between late November and late December. It commemorates the victory of the Maccabees, a Jewish rebel army, over the Syrians in 165 B.C.E., as well as the subsequent re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem. Jews around the world celebrate with eight nights of merriment. Traditions include lighting the menorah, exchanging gifts and enjoying treats cooked in oil.

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The History of Hanukkah

Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and nights, starting on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar (which is November-December on the Gregorian calendar). In Hebrew, the word “Hanukkah” means “dedication.”

The holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews’ 165 B.C.E. victory over the Hellenist Syrians. Antiochus, the Greek King of Syria, outlawed Jewish rituals and ordered the Jews to worship Greek gods.

In 168 B.C.E. the Jews’ holy Temple was seized and dedicated to the worship of Zeus.

Some Jews were afraid of the Greek soldiers and obeyed them, but most were angry and decided to fight back.

The fighting began in Modiin, a village not far from Jerusalem. A Greek officer and soldiers assembled the villagers, asking them to bow to an idol and eat the flesh of a pig, activities forbidden to Jews. The officer asked Mattathias, a Jewish High Priest, to take part in the ceremony. He refused, and another villager stepped forward and offered to do it instead. Mattathias became outraged, took out his sword and killed the man, then killed the officer. His five sons and the other villagers then attacked and killed the soldiers. Mattathias’ family went into hiding in the nearby mountains, where many other Jews who wanted to fight the Greeks joined them. They attacked the Greek soldiers whenever possible.

Judah Maccabee and his soldiers went to the holy Temple, and were saddened that many things were missing or broken, including the golden menorah. They cleaned and repaired the Temple, and when they were finished, they decided to have a big dedication ceremony. For the celebration, the Maccabees wanted to light the menorah. They looked everywhere for oil, and found a small flask that contained only enough oil to light the menorah for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days. This gave them enough time to obtain new oil to keep the menorah lit. Today Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting candles in a menorah every night, thus commemorating the eight-day miracle.

Hanukkah Traditions

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The Menorah
On each night of Hanukkah, the menorah is lit to commemorate a miracle which occurred after the Jews proclaimed victory over the Syrian armies in 165 B.C.E. When Jews came to rededicate the Temple-which had been defiled by the Syrians-they found only one small flask of oil with which to light the menorah. This flask contained only enough oil for one day, yet the lamp burned for eight days (by which time a fresh supply of oil was obtained).

  • In Israel, the Hanukkah menorah is called the Hanukiyah
    Menorahs come in all shapes and sizes. The only requirement is that the flames are separated enough so that they will not look too big and resemble a pagan bonfire.

  • Ancient menorahs were made of clay. They consisted of small, pearl shaped vessels, each with its own wick, which were arranged side-by-side.
  • Today’s menorah, which stands on a base from which the branches sprout, resembles the holy Temple’s menorah and started to appear towards the end of the Middle Ages.

Latkes at Hanukkah

Classic Potato Latkes

Classic Potato Latkes

The most popular themes throughout the Hanukkah dishes are the use of oil. The oil reminds us of the oil which burned eight days instead of one. Latkes are potato pancakes made from grated potatoes mixed with eggs, onions, and flour, then fried in vegetable oil. The texture is crispy on the outside and tender within. They’re served hot and often dipped in apple sauce or sour cream. The Maccabbee soliders ate latkes made from cheese, vegetables, or fruits which were brought to them on the battlefields. However, they didn’t eat potato latkes, as potatoes weren’t available until the 16th century.

Hanukkah Dreidel
The dreidel is a four-sided spinning top with a Hebrew letter inscribed on each side. In America the letters stand for “A Great Miracle Happened There“. In Israel the letters mean “A Miracle Happened Here“. Each player receives a given number of coins or candy pieces. Before spinning the dreidel, each player puts a fixed proportion of the amount received into the “kupah” or kitty. Each player in turn spins the dreidel. When the dreidel falls, it will fall on one of the 4 letters. According to the letter, the following will happen: Nun – no win / no lose Gimmel – take all (from the kitty) Heh – take half (from the kitty) Peh or Shin – lose (what you deposited) The game continues until players have run out of ‘funds’ or it is agreed to stop (anyone losing all funds is out of the game). The dreidel game was popular during the rule of Antiochus before the Maccabees’ revolt, a time when soldiers executed any Jews who were caught practicing their religion. When pious Jews gathered to study the Torah, they had the top ready in case they heard soliders approaching. If the soldiers appeared, they would hide the holy scriptures and pretend to play with the dreidl. In Israel the dreidel is called a sivivon. The yiddish word “dreidel” is derived from the German word “drehen“, or “turn“.

Sufganiyot – Hanukkah Jelly Donuts
Sufganiyot, fried foods recall the oil that burned in the temple

Sufganiyot, fried foods recall the oil that burned in the temple

Sufganiyot are jelly doughnuts without the hole. They’re dropped into hot oil without being shaped and come out in odd, funny shapes, then covered in powdered sugar and/or cinnamon. Sufganiyot are particularly popular in Israel, where they are sold on stands in the streets over a month before Hanukkah begins. Some great recipes can be found here.

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Helpful Information and Related Articles

The White House Hanukkah Celebration 2009
Hanukkah Food and Entertaining
Hanukkah Decorating
Hanukkah Gifts and Cards
Hanukkah Games and Songs


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Holiday Season at the White House with the Obama’s ~ 2009

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November 27, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama and First Daughters Kick Off Christmas at White House

First lady Michelle Obama, with her daughters Sasha and Malia, as they stand with the White House Christmas tree as it is delivered to the North Portico of the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 27, 2009.

First Lady Michelle Obama, with her daughters Sasha and Malia, as they stand with the White House Christmas tree as it is delivered to the North Portico.

AP/—The White House is open for Christmas. A day after celebrating Thanksgiving, First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha received the official White House Christmas tree: an 18½-foot Douglas fir delivered from a farm in Shepherdstown, W.Va., by traditional horse-drawn carriage. Growers Eric and Gloria Sundback officially presented the tree to the Obamas on Friday. It’s the fourth time one of their trees has become the official White House tree.

Malia, Michelle, and Sasha Obama welcome Mark Steelhammer, left, and Eric and Gloria Sundback to the White House.

Malia, Michelle, and Sasha Obama welcome Mark Steelhammer, left, and Eric and Gloria Sundback to the White House.

It’s big enough for Sasha to climb in, I think,” Sundback joked after the Obamas walked from the North Portico of the White House to the driveway where the tree was tied up and lying in the carriage, pulled up the driveway from Pennsylvania Avenue by a pair of Belgian draft horses with red Christmas bows tied to their tails. A sign affixed to the side of the carriage said “White House Christmas Tree 2009.” “We’re excited,” Mrs. Obama told the Sundbacks. Asked by reporters whether the tree was the biggest she ever had, the first lady said: “Yeah, I think this wins.”

The 12-foot wide tree in the oval-shaped Blue Room on the State Floor of the White House, is the star attraction of Christmas at the White House, and will be oohed and aahed over by the thousands of people who will stream through in December for holiday parties and public tours of the executive mansion.

The tree, which the Sundbacks planted in 1996, was hand-picked on Oct. 20 on a visit to the Sundback’s farm by retired Rear Adm. Stephen Rochon, the White House chief usher, and Dale Haney, superintendent of the White House grounds. Besides the official tree, more than a dozen smaller trees from the Sundback farm will decorate other rooms in the White House, including the Oval Office. The Sundbacks, both in their 80s, earned the honor by winning the National Christmas Tree Association’s national contest this year for the fourth time. A tree from the winner’s farm is then chosen as the official White House tree, an annual tradition that dates to 1966. The Sundbacks have grown Christmas trees since 1956 and were thrilled by the opportunity to meet their fourth first lady.

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December 2, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama Unveils White House Christmas Decorations

The First Lady debuts the 2009 White House Christmas decorations in the Cross Hall of the White House. She is accompanied by U.S. Marines as she promotes the Marine Corp's Toys for Tots program

The First Lady debuts the 2009 White House Christmas decorations in the Cross Hall of the White House. She is accompanied by U.S. Marines as she promotes the Marine Corp's Toys for Tots program

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama became the entertainers-in-chief, hosting nearly 30 parties during their first holiday season at the White House. More than 50,000 people have received invitations to attend one of the 17 holiday parties and 11 open houses at the White House that started in early December.

The Red Room of the White House, with holiday decorations, Dec. 2, 2009. This years holiday theme at the White House is reflect, rejoice and renew.

The Red Room of the White House, with holiday decorations, Dec. 2, 2009. This years holiday theme at the White House is reflect, rejoice and renew.

This isn’t just throwing open the White House doors and putting out some drinks and appetizers. The Obamas attended each party, greeted guests in a receiving line, posed for photos at most of the events and even mingled among the partygoers at a select few.

The Obamas pledged to open up the White House and make it a more open, welcoming place to average Americans. Guests at the White House holiday parties get to explore the mansion’s state floor, which holds famous rooms like the East, Red, Green and Blue rooms and the State Dining Room.

The White House tree is also lit with environmentally sound LED lights

The White House tree is also lit with environmentally sound LED lights

The theme of this year’s decorations is “reflect, rejoice and renew.” The displays are scaled down from previous seasons in an acknowledgment of the tough economic times and also to highlight the Obamas’ emphasis on recycling. Some of the decorations, in fact, are from previous administrations, but with an Obama twist.

We decided to do something just a little different,” Michelle Obama said earlier this month. “We took about 800 ornaments left over from previous administrations, we sent them to 60 local community groups throughout the country, and asked them to decorate them to pay tribute to a favorite local landmark and then send them back to us for display here at the White House.”

Guests still will be able to admire an annual, mouthwatering White House tradition — the gingerbread replica of the president’s mansion, made over the last six weeks by White House pastry chef Bill Yosses. The 400-pound White House is made out of white chocolate and gingerbread with flourishes of marzipan to create the vegetables in the Obamas’ garden and the furniture in the State Dining Room.

The ornaments are hung on the tree with blue ribbon embroidered with the words "reflect," "rejoice" and "renew" in several different languages

The ornaments are hung on the tree with blue ribbon embroidered with the words reflect, rejoice and renew in several different languages

The largest tree in the mansion — an 18 1/2 -foot Douglas fir adorning the Blue Room — is festooned with hundreds of ornaments, all recycled from previous administrations and spruced up by groups around the country to reflect cherished landmarks. Chicagoans clearly had a vote, since the city is represented in orbs singling out the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Chicago Theatre, the Art Institute of Chicago and the DuSable Museum of African American History. “Sweet home, Chicago” is the rhapsody on another ornament. It takes its place with ornaments depicting a Georgia peach, a Maryland crab and others heralding spots from Maine (the Wiggly Bridge near York Harbor) to California (the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library).

A view of the White House Green Room

A view of the White House Green Room

Planning for the holidays began last summer, and the first of an expected 50,000-plus holiday visitors began streaming through December 1st. There were dozens of “elves” behind the decorating, which, while elaborate, was more understated than in recent years. Ninety-two volunteers from 24 states put in more than 3,400 hours of their time. Among the volunteers were some from the Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago. White House staffers and National Park Service workers also rolled up their sleeves in the effort.

The East Room is decorated with fresh garlands, blue hydrangea, seeded eucalyptus and beaded fruit

The East Room is decorated with fresh garlands, blue hydrangea, seeded eucalyptus and beaded fruit

They helped erect a large, ornate nativity scene in the East Room, graced by four fireplaces wearing opulent fresh garlands on their mantels. There, as in the other rooms on the State Floor, Mother Nature is amply represented with adornments of dried hydrangea (leftovers from White House floral arrangements), honeysuckle vine, magnolia branches, cranberries, gigantic pine cones and painted magnolia leaves. Several ruby-red wreaths were created from the magnolia leaves. Two 8-foot topiary trees were crafted from dried pepper berries, all from California. The flowers? They range from pink-tinged white amaryllis, fringed with pepper berry, to pale pink roses married with boxwood.

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December 3, 2009

The 86th Anniversary–Lighting of The National Christmas Tree

The National Christmas Tree Lighting once again provided an opportunity for all Americans to come together to celebrate the season and to share the message of peace.

Presented by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation, an all-star lineup of stars offered a diverse program of holiday music, including traditional songs with dashes of pop, folk and hip-hop.

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December 13, 2009

Christmas at the White House: An Oprah Primetime Special


Oprah Winfrey ushered in the holidays at the White House, visiting President Barack Obama and the First Lady as they prepared for their family’s first Christmas there.

The intimate, informative and entertaining hour-long special included a one-on-one conversation with the President, marking the first time Oprah had interviewed him since he took office, as well as an exclusive sit-down interview with the first couple. The special showcased behind-the-scenes preparations as the White House gets ready for the holiday season. Winfrey’s special included a tour of White House holiday decorations and an appearance by Bo, the family’s dog.

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December 16, 2009

The White House Hanukkah Party: A Special Menorah from Prague, Kosher Foods, and a Larger Guest List

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch as a child lights the Hanukkah candles

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch as a child lights the Hanukkah candles

Obama Foodorama—December 16th was the sixth night of the Jewish Festival of Lights, and President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted their first Hanukkah party at the White House. The event spilled between the State Dining Room and the East Room, and a Jewish student choir will perform. A very special 19th century menorah was loaned to the White House for the traditional candle lighting ceremony, and it was lit by the two young children of a Jewish soldier deployed in Iraq. The special koshering of the White House kitchen was overseen by Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who heads the Washington office of the American Friends of Lubavitch.

President Barack Obama with First Lady Michelle greets the crowd before his speech at Hradcansky square in Prague on April 5, 2009

President Barack Obama with First Lady Michelle greets the crowd before his speech at Hradcansky square in Prague on April 5, 2009

The sterling silver menorah is on loan from the Jewish Museum in Prague, at the request of Mrs. Obama, who visited when she was touring Prague’s Jewish Town in April, while President Obama was on his first official visit there. The menorah dates from 1783, and is the work of Viennese silversmith Cyril Schillberger. On December 1, Leo Pavlat, director of the Jewish Museum, handed the menorah over to Mary Thompson-Jones, Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of the United States of America, in a brief ceremony. Pavlat noted that the museum was pleased to loan the menorah to the Obamas, and regarded it as a symbolic connection between the Jewish communities in Moravia and Bohemia and those in the United States. When she was in Prague, Pavlat acted as Mrs. Obama’s tour guide during her tour of Jewish historical sites.

Pavlat and Thompson-Jones during the menorah hand off in Prague

Pavlat and Thompson-Jones during the menorah hand off in Prague

On Dec. 11, the first night of Hanukkah, President Obama sent holiday greetings from the White House, in Hebrew and English:

הצהרת הנשיא אובאמה לרגל חג החנוכה

מישל ואנוכי שולחים את מיטב איחולינו לכל מי שחוגג בימים אלה את חג החנוכה ברחבי העולם. סיפור חנוכה של המכבים ושל הנסים שהם חוו מזכירים לנו שאמונה והתמדה הן כוחות עצומים המסוגלים לקיים אותנו בתקופות קשות ולעזור לנו לגבור על מכשולים כנגד כל הסיכויים.

חנוכה הוא העת לא רק לחגוג את אמונת העם היהודי ואת מנהגיו, אלא להעלות על נס את השאיפות המשותפות של בני כל הדתות. בשעה שבני משפחה, חברים ושכנים נאספים יחדיו כדי להדליק את הנרות, מי יתן והלקחים של חנוכה ישמשו השראה לכולנו להודות על החסד שנפל בחלקינו, למצוא מקור אור בתקופות אופל ולפעול יחדיו למען
עתיד יותר מלא אורה ותקווה

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Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama, addresses attendees at the 2009 Hanukkah Menorah Lighting Ceremony at the Ellipse, near the south grounds of the White House

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Emmanuel joined two Rabbis in a cherry picker at the top of the menorah to ignite three oil lamps marking the 3rd night of the eight-day festival

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December 16, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama Delivers Toys for Tots

First Lady Michelle Obama praised the soldiers and volunteers who worked on the Marine Corps program.

First Lady Michelle Obama praised the soldiers and volunteers who worked on the Marine Corps program.


First Lady Michelle Obama visits the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve’s Toy for Tots warehouse in Stafford, VA to deliver some of the more than 500 toys collected during a White House drive. Started in 1947, the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation collects and distributes toys to less fortunate children for Christmas. The program helps make sure needy children have something to unwrap on Christmas morning. The First Lady was told about an abundance of toys for younger children. She asked the public to think about needy older children when shopping for toys to donate.

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December 17, 2009

Gloria Estefan Interviews President Obama in the White House for the Univision special “Our Christmas”


In an interview for Univision, singer Gloria Estefan interviewed the President, asking the “very important question…which chimney will Santa be coming down?”

The answer: the chimney in the Yellow Room in the middle of the Residence, “so that’s where we are going to set the cookies and the milk, because after working all night, giving the gifts…. we want to make sure when it comes to the White House that he feels like he is getting good service.” The Obamas will also set out “a little reindeer snack.”

At the end of the interview the President sent seasons greetings and a call to service to viewers and military families in the Hispanic community…en Español. “En esta temporada festiva, todos queremos estar con nuestros seres queridos, pero también podemos tomar el tiempo para ayudar a nuestras comunidades. Cada persona puede hacer una gran diferencia. Michelle y yo les deseamos una Feliz Navidad.”

Translation: “In this holiday season, we would all like to be with our loved ones, but we should also take the time to help our communities. Each person can make a big difference. Michelle and I wish you a Merry Christmas.”

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December 20, 2009

The 11th Annual Christmas in Washington Concert

TNT rang in the holidays in musical style with 11th annual presentation of Christmas in Washington. Performers included were Mary J. Blige, Neil Diamond, Sugarland, Usher, Rob Thomas and Justin Bieber joined host George Lopez in this spectacular holiday celebration.

Annually attended by the President and First Lady and other Washington VIPs, Christmas in Washington is a holiday musical celebration taped at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., with proceeds going to the National Children’s Medical Center.

Before the show started, four little girls dressed as elves helped the first couple place a gift for the Children’s National Medical Center under a Christmas tree. President Obama deemed the quartet – Avery, age 4, Anna, age 6, Abigail, age 4, and Reagan, age 7 – “Santa’s little helpers,” and introduced each, replacing their last name with “Elf.”

Though Anna Elf (on the left), seemed unimpressed, telling the President: “I’ve never seen you before!” He responded, laughing, “I’ve never seen you before.”

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Sugarland's  Kristian Bush, left, Mary J Blige, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle and George Lopez sing Christmas carols

Sugarland's Kristian Bush, left, Mary J Blige, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle and George Lopez sing Christmas carols

President Obama spoke of helping those in need during the holidays, as well as honoring those in the military: “With our men and women in uniform serving far from home, in harm’s way, our fervent wish remains this season, and all seasons: Let there be peace on earth,” he said. Near the end of the show, Lopez introduced President Obama and First Lady Michelle. The President thanked the performers and offered some holiday thoughts:

This season we celebrate that sacred moment. The birth of a child, the message of the love we preach to the world. We are our brother’s keeper. We are our sister’s keeper. And pure in heart, we do unto others as we have them do unto us. We devote ourselves to good works. We are summoned to be peacemakers. More the 2,000 years later,that spirit still inspires us. That’s why this celebration tonight benefits Children’s National Medical Center and all the children whose lives they touch and they save.

That’s why so many of our fellow citizens struggle during tough times. We are called upon to help neighbors in need. That’s why, with our men and women in uniform serving far from home, in harm’s way, our fervent wish remains this season, and all seasons to let there be peace on Earth. To all Americans, from our family to yours, Merry Christmas and God bless.”

After addressing the crowd, the Obamas stayed on stage with all the performers to sing carols, starting with “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” The president wiped a tear from his eye during the sing-along.

Mary J. Blige Sings Oh Holy Night

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Usher Sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

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Justin Bieber Sings Some Day At Christmas

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Mary J. Blige Sings the Christmas Song

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Sugarland Sings Gold and Green

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Usher Sings Peace on Earth

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Rob Thomas Sings New York Christmas

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December 21, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama and First Daughters Malia & Sasha Answer Kids’ Questions, While Bo Barks At Santa

President Barack Obama says the only Christmas presents he needs from his daughters are hugs.

During an interview on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Obama said he and First Lady Michelle Obama decided several years ago not to buy each other presents. Obama says that doesn’t always save him money because he makes up for that on birthdays and Mother’s Day, but it does save him some wrapping time around the holidays.

Although the President said all he wants for Christmas is hugs from his daughters, first daughters Sasha and Malia have other plans. During a Q&A with kids at the Children’s National Medical Center on Tuesday, the girls revealed they’re getting their father “sports stuff.” They also talked about how Christmas will be different now that they’re in the White House and what they’re planning for the holidays. Bo the First dog came along for the visit.

December 21, 2009

President Obama Visits Boys & Girls Club, Reads To Children

Barack Obama brought a beloved book to read. He brought a press entourage. He brought cookies shaped like Bo the dog. Hey, he brought himself.

But the president of the United States still got a little Christmas reality Monday from a bunch of kids: High-tech toys rule.

Dashing into a Boys & Girls Club in northeast Washington, Obama asked about 25 youngsters what they wanted from Santa Claus.

An Ipod. A video game. A TV. A video game. A cell phone. A video game.

Now let me ask you a question here guys,” Obama finally said. “What ever happened to, like, asking for a bike?”

For a president snowbound in the White House, a visit to this community center was a nice mix of missions: a way to give back, a nice photo opportunity with a cute collection of children, and a chance to tell the country that the holidays are about generosity of spirit – not just gifts.

Obama took off his suit coat and read “The Polar Express,” a magical Christmas classic, holding it forward so the seated children could see the pictures.

The children paid quiet attention throughout. Obama rewarded them by grabbing his red velvet-wrapped basket of cookies and offering the children a choice of shapes: Bo the family dog, a gingerbread man or a Christmas maple leaf.


December 22, 2009

Photostream: Holidays at the White House

Holiday season at the White House began with a very simple idea: to include as many people, in as many places, in as many ways as possible. In this spirit, they’ve posted a video tour of this year’s decorations and the making of the gingerbread White House; now see the holidays through the lens of the White House Photo Office.
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December 23, 2009

The Official White House Christmas Portrait of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose for a formal portrait in front of the official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room of the White House, Dec. 6, 2009

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama pose for a formal portrait in front of the official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room of the White House, Dec. 6, 2009


December 23, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama Reads The Night Before Christmas

First Lady Michelle Obama visits Children’s National Medial Center in Washington D.C. to read “The Night Before Christmas“. Joined by daughters Malia and Sasha, along with dog Bo, the First Lady continues this tradition of visiting with patients which dates back to Bess Truman.

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December 24, 2009

President Obama’s Weekly Address: Celebrating Christmas and Honoring Those Who Serve

For the first time in a weekly address, the President is joined by the First Lady as they celebrate Christmas. They both honor those serving overseas, those who have sacrificed for their country, and the families that stand by them. December 24, 2009.
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December 24, 2009

Mele Kalikimaka: The Obama Family’s Annual Christmas Vacation

Hawaii’s home-grown president, Barack Obama and the First Family traveled back in Honolulu on Dec. 24. They celebrated both Christmas and New Year’s in the islands.

In the past, Obama made a point of celebrating Christmas with his grandmother Madelyn Payne Dunham. The woman who raised Obama when his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was working and studying in Indonesia, died last November.

Also in past years, Obama would spend time with his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng. The President’s sister and her husband, Konrad Ng, are also expected back in Honolulu. They were living in Washington, D.C., this year while Ng, a University of Hawaii professor, was scholar-in-residence at the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian Pacific American program.

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their children Sasha and Malia leave the White House

The First Family Arrives In Honolulu, Hawaii

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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama greet soldiers and their family members for Christmas during a visit to Marine Corps Base Hawaii on December 25, 2009 in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii



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The White House Hanukkah Party 2009

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch as a child lights the Hanukkah candles at a reception in the the White House, Dec. 16, 2009

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama watch as a child lights the Hanukkah candles at a reception in the the White House, Dec. 16, 2009

Obama Foodorama—December 16th was the sixth night of the Jewish Festival of Lights, and President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted their first Hanukkah party at the White House. The event spilled between the State Dining Room and the East Room, and a Jewish student choir will perform. A very special 19th century menorah was loaned to the White House for the traditional candle lighting ceremony, and it was lit by the two young children of a Jewish soldier deployed in Iraq. The special koshering of the White House kitchen was overseen by Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who heads the Washington office of the American Friends of Lubavitch.

President Barack Obama with First Lady Michelle greets the crowd before his speech at Hradcansky square in Prague on April 5, 2009

President Barack Obama with First Lady Michelle greets the crowd before his speech at Hradcansky square in Prague on April 5, 2009

The sterling silver menorah is on loan from the Jewish Museum in Prague, at the request of Mrs. Obama, who visited when she was touring Prague’s Jewish Town in April, while President Obama was on his first official visit there. The menorah dates from 1783, and is the work of Viennese silversmith Cyril Schillberger. On December 1, Leo Pavlat, director of the Jewish Museum, handed the menorah over to Mary Thompson-Jones, Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of the United States of America, in a brief ceremony. Pavlat noted that the museum was pleased to loan the menorah to the Obamas, and regarded it as a symbolic connection between the Jewish communities in Moravia and Bohemia and those in the United States. When she was in Prague, Pavlat acted as Mrs. Obama’s tour guide during her tour of Jewish historical sites.

Pavlat and Thompson-Jones during the menorah hand off in Prague

Pavlat and Thompson-Jones during the menorah hand off in Prague

On Dec. 11, the first night of Hanukkah, President Obama sent holiday greetings from the White House, in Hebrew and English:

הצהרת הנשיא אובאמה לרגל חג החנוכה

מישל ואנוכי שולחים את מיטב איחולינו לכל מי שחוגג בימים אלה את חג החנוכה ברחבי העולם. סיפור חנוכה של המכבים ושל הנסים שהם חוו מזכירים לנו שאמונה והתמדה הן כוחות עצומים המסוגלים לקיים אותנו בתקופות קשות ולעזור לנו לגבור על מכשולים כנגד כל הסיכויים.

חנוכה הוא העת לא רק לחגוג את אמונת העם היהודי ואת מנהגיו, אלא להעלות על נס את השאיפות המשותפות של בני כל הדתות. בשעה שבני משפחה, חברים ושכנים נאספים יחדיו כדי להדליק את הנרות, מי יתן והלקחים של חנוכה ישמשו השראה לכולנו להודות על החסד שנפל בחלקינו, למצוא מקור אור בתקופות אופל ולפעול יחדיו למען
עתיד יותר מלא אורה ותקווה

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Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama, addresses attendees at the 2009 Hanukkah Menorah Lighting Ceremony at the Ellipse, near the south grounds of the White House

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Rahm Emmanuel White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama joined two Rabbis in a cherry picker at the top of the menorah to ignite three oil lamps marking the 3rd night of the eight-day festival

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Gap’s Christmas Cheer Makes A Boycott Backfire

Posted by Audiegrl

The American Family Association attacked Gap for not using the word ‘Christmas‘ in its advertising — but in fact it does, and in a big way too

Los Angeles Times/Dan Neil—The Mississippi-based American Family Assn. last week issued a fatwa against Gap Inc. — the retailing giant whose brands include Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic — calling for a “two-month boycott over the company’s failure to use the word ‘Christmas’ in its advertising to Christmas shoppers.”

The War on Christmas season has officially begun.

Gap “does not use the word ‘Christmas’ to avoid offending those who don’t embrace its meaning,” writes Buddy Smith, executive assistant to the president of the AFA, on the organization’s website. “Christmas has historically been very good for commerce. But now Gap wants the commerce but no Christmas.”

I interpret Gap’s decision as a warning sign to Christians to get out there and tell people about Jesus Christ,” writes Smith.

And they say nobody likes fruitcake.

It would be easy to get sidetracked into debating the merits of the War on Christmas. Why, for example, is the phrase “Happy holidays” so insufferable to Christian fundamentalists, but not the vulgar, surfeiting exploitation of Christ’s name to sell smokeless ashtrays, dessert toppings, Droid phones and trampolines? I’m not a theologian but I think the Gospels are pretty clear that Jesus was no fan of merchants.

And since China is in the news this week: Why not go after Gap and other retailers for trading in Chinese-made goods, since the Chinese government actively oppresses the Christian faith? Seems like building a case on religious tolerance would have more resonance. Oh, wait. Never mind.

But here’s the real question: Why attack Gap for not using the word “Christmas” in its advertising when in fact it does, and in a big way too?

Surf on over to YouTube and watch Gap’s latest 30-second spot, titled “Go Ho Ho” (Crispin Porter + Bogusky). The spot — which is in heavy rotation on network and cable TV — features a group of insanely athletic dancers leaping and twirling and stomp-cheering around a white log-cabin set. They chant, “Go Christmas, go Hanukkah, go Kwanzaa, go Solstice. . . . Do whatever you wannukkah and to all a cheery night.”

There it is, right up front, enjoying pride of place: the C-word.

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In one of the first lines of Gap’s new holiday ad, the dancers yell, “Go Christmas! Go Hanukkah! Go Kwanzaa! Go Solstice!” Check it out, its got great dancing too!

Get Ready For Holiday Cheer – visit cheerfactory.com to send some personalized digi-cheer to your friends.

IMHO, this entire drama could be avoided by simply educating people on the origins of what we know today as “Christmas“.

Several years ago a family member gave me the DVD “Christmas unWrapped- The History of Christmas“. It examines each of our holiday traditions and explains where they came from. Many people who believe we should “keep Christ in Christmas“, will be surprised to learn the historical facts. Its a very interesting documentary, that I highly recommend.

Click here to purchase

People all over the world celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th. But why is the Nativity marked by gift giving, and was He really born on that day? And just where did the Christmas tree come from? Take an enchanting tour through the history of this beloved holiday and trace the origins of its enduring traditions. Journey back to the earliest celebrations when the infant religion embraced pagan solstice festivals like the Roman Saturnalia and turned them into a commemoration of Jesus’ birth. Learn how Prince Albert introduced the Christmas tree to the English-speaking world in 1841, and discover how British settlers in the New World transformed the patron saint of children into jolly old St. Nick.

This documentary explores the origin of Christmas and how it came to be the way we know it today. The documentary also incites the thought as to how Christmas is on one hand a result of social, cultural, and political influences (hence somewhat obscuring the apparent purpose of the festival: Christ’s Mass), and on the other hand a influence over people’s lives (particularly consumerism). Youtube links to the first three parts of the show are below.

I highly recommend purchasing this DVD. 🙂

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

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