President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalyn 1977-1981
When Jimmy Carter decided to run for the Presidential Election of 1976, it was quite a shock to most seeing as he had very little name recognition throughout the United States. But the Democrat Georgia governor campaigned in 37 states, gave 200 speeches, and even gave a private interview to Playboy magazine. Running against President Ford, Carter won the popular vote by 2.1% and earned 57 more votes in the Electoral College. On January 20, 1977, Jimmy Carter was sworn in as the 39th President of the United States – the first man from the Deep South to be elected President since the election of 1848.For their first Christmas in the White House in 1977, The Carters asked Harvey Moriarty, a family friend, to draw a picture of the White House for their 1977 Christmas cards. Moriarty’s drawing, done in pen and ink, featured a view of the White House South Portico from the South Lawn. Hallmark lithographed the image on deckle-edged ivory paper. The imprint read, “With best wishes from our family for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The President and Mrs. Carter.” It was suggested by the Democratic National Committee that the President send Christmas cards to campaign workers and donors to express appreciation and maintain support for the 1980 campaign. So to make certain they would have enough holiday greetings to send out, President Carter and the First Lady ordered a whopping 60,000 White House Christmas cards from Hallmark that year! The President and Mrs. Carter also commissioned Hallmark to reproduce Moriarty’s White House drawing for their Christmas gift prints. Hallmark made up 5,000 prints, which were given out to the White House staff. Each print was inscribed with the title, “The White House-1977,” and contained signatures of both the President and First Lady. First Lady Rosalynn Carter explored a variety of holiday themes in her years at the White House. Her 1977 Blue Room tree featured painted milkweed pods, nut pods, foil and eggshell ornaments made by members of the National Association for Retarded Citizens. In 1978 Mrs. Carter decked an “antique toy” tree with Victorian dolls and miniature furniture lent by the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum. In 1979 she honored American Folk Art of the Colonial period, asking students of the Corcoran School of Art to create imaginary symbolism pieces from balsa wood, fabric and dried flowers. She revisited a Victorian theme in 1980 with dolls, hats, fans, tapestries and laces. President and Mrs. Carter were “Sunday painters” who appreciated American art. Jimmy Carter first became interested in art history as an education officer in the Navy. In time, he and Rosalynn studied the great masterpieces together, “not to become experts,” she explained, “but for enjoyment.” In 1977, a surprise gift arrived for 10-year-old Amy Carter – a red, white and blue chain saw. A young friend of Amy’s had reported that the first daughter wanted a chain saw for Christmas because “she likes the way they work.” A White House spokeswoman later clarified, “I think Amy might have said ‘train set,’ not ‘chain saw.'” Nonetheless, more chain saws arrived.
On December 18, 1980, President Carter lit his final National Christmas Tree. The tree stayed illuminated for only 417 seconds, each second symbolizing the total number of days that the American hostages were being detained in Iran. In his final Christmas greeting to the American people, the President talked about the hostage situation in Iran and the reasons why the tree was to remain unlit. At one point he said, “The hostage families asked me to do this year the same thing we did last year. And this is just to light the Star of Hope and to hold the other lights unlit until the hostages come home. And they also asked me to ask all Americans to continue to pray for the lives and safety of our hostages and for their early return to freedom…”
Christmas 1979 Statement by the President
At this time of traditional joy and family festivity, as we join in thanking God for His blessings to us as a nation and as individuals, we ask that you offer a special prayer for the Americans who are being held hostage in Iran and for their families. We remember also the plight of all people, whatever their nationality, who suffer from injustice, oppression, hunger, war, or terrorism.
May this Christmas season truly be the beginning of a time of peace among nations and good will among all peoples, and may the spirit of love and caring continue from this holy season through the coming year.~President Jimmy Carter
President Ronald Regan and First Lady Nancy 1981-1989
First Lady Nancy Reagan chose the themes for eight White House Christmas’s. Her official 1981 Blue Room tree was trimmed in ornaments lent by the Museum of American Folk Art. For all the following years, she arranged for the people of Second Genesis, a drug treatment program in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, to help decorate her trees. In 1982, they made foil paper cones and metallic snowflakes. These were reused in 1983 on a tree featuring old-fashioned toys lent by the Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum. In 1984, Second Genesis fashioned ornaments out of plant material to compliment natural pieces crafted by the Brandywine Museum in Pennsylvania.President Ronald Reagan caught Nancy Reagan under the “kissing ball” of mistletoe that hung in the Grand Foyer in 1981. But Reagan’s allergies couldn’t handle some of the other floral arrangements, and the plants had to be exiled to spots in the White House that the president rarely visited.
For Christmas of 1985, the Reagan’s Executive Residence staff and Second Genesis made 1,500 ornaments from holiday cards sent to President Reagan in 1984. The residence staff and Second Genesis worked together for the next three holiday seasons.Christmas in Illinois, where both Ronald and Nancy Reagan grew up, was a sharp contrast to their Christmases in Washington. The President has recalled that his family never had a really fancy Christmas. During the Depression, when they couldn’t afford a Christmas tree, his mother would decorate a table or make a cardboard fireplace out of a packing box. The First Lady had fond childhood memories of her family’s old-fashioned tree decorated with all the ornaments she and her brother had made in school. Little Nancy would stay awake Christmas Eve listening for the sound of reindeer on the roof, waiting anxiously to see if she had received what she had requested in her letter to Santa. As First Lady, Nancy Reagan was much less dependent on Santa. “Christmas at the White House was truly magical,” she recalled. “The huge tree in the Blue Room was very beautiful; the trees in the East Room looked like they were standing in snow with tiny white lights on them.” President Regan sent a Christmas message to the country, “Nancy and I pray that this Christmas will be a time of hope and happiness not only for our nation but for all people of the world. Merry Christmas, and God bless you.” To share the aura of the White House at Christmas, the Reagans decided to invite young artists to paint scenes of the Executive Mansion for their cards. During the President’s first term in office, they commissioned Jamie Wyeth to paint two exterior views of the White House at Christmas; they commissioned James Steinmeyer and Mark Hampton to do non-holiday renderings of the Red Room and the Green Room, respectively. For the second term in office, they settled on one artist, Thomas William Jones, and one theme, Christmas inside the White House. In his final Christmas wish for the nation, President Regan said, “Nancy joins me in wishing all Americans a Christmas of true peace and a New Year filled with happiness and joy.”
Message on the Observance of Christmas 1988
The themes of Christmas and of coming home for the holidays have long been intertwined in song and story. There is a profound irony and lesson in this, because Christmas celebrates the coming of a Savior Who was born without a home.
There was no room at the inn for the Holy Family. Weary of travel, a young Mary close to childbirth and her carpenter husband Joseph found but the rude shelter of a stable. There was born the King of Kings, the Prince of Peace—an event on which all history would turn. Jesus would again be without a home, and more than once; on the flight to Egypt and during His public ministry, when He said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head.” From His very infancy, on, our Redeemer was reminding us that from then on we would never lack a home in Him. Like the shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared on the first Christmas Day, we could always say, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.”
As we come home with gladness to family and friends this Christmas, let us also remember our neighbors who cannot go home themselves. Our compassion and concern this Christmas and all year long will mean much to the hospitalized, the homeless, the convalescent, the orphaned—and will surely lead us on our way to the joy and peace of Bethlehem and the Christ Child Who bids us come. For it is only in finding and living the eternal meaning of the Nativity that we can be truly happy, truly at peace, truly home.
Merry Christmas, and God bless you!~President Ronald Regan
President Ronald Regan’s 1981 Christmas Greeting
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1984 National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
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President George HW Bush and First Lady Barbara 1989-1993
First Lady Barbara Bush chose a theme of “family literacy” for the Blue Room tree of 1989. She had the Executive Residence staff create 80 soft-sculpture characters from literature. Tiny books completed the motif. In 1990, Mrs. Bush revisited “The Nutcracker” with little porcelain dancers. White House florists dressed the figurines, and a castle from the Land of Sweets was constructed by White House craftspeople. The Saintly Stitchers of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas, joined with the staff on the “needle work” tree of 1991. They created a needlepoint village and 92 needlepoint figures for a wooden Noah’s Ark built by staff carpenters. For the 1992 tree theme of “Gift-Givers,” White House florists fashioned 88 different “gift-giving” characters.Ever since “Poppy” Bush met Barbara Pierce at a Christmas party in December 1941, they had celebrated life together. Then, after 44 years of marriage, raising five children, losing a sixth to leukemia and moving 29 times, George and Barbara Bush relocated, with much fanfare, to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
They especially enjoyed celebrating Christmas at the White House with family and friends and the thousands of visitors who came each year to enjoy the beautiful Christmas sights and sounds with them. The First Lady added her own special touches to the holiday with her annual cherry picker ride to hang the star at the top of the National Christmas Tree, a trip she took 12 times beginning in the Reagan Administration as the wife of the Vice President.In this photo taken Nov. 28, 1984, First Lady Barbara Bush, assisted by Joseph Riley, president of the Christmas Pageant of Peace committee, places the top ornament on the national Christmas tree on the Ellipse near the White House. In 1991, a needlepoint club of White House staff and volunteers made 1,370 needlepoint Christmas ornaments, some of which had a resemblance to the first lady. One six-inch angel was wearing a three-stranded pearl necklace and Mrs. Bush joked to reporters, “There are a lot of white-haired, fat, pearled ones.” Despite all the White House Christmas card history that had gone before, this First Family established four “firsts” in the cards they selected and sent: the first holiday card done by a White House staff artist; the first card to showcase the Oval Office; the first card to reveal the family quarters at Christmas, and the first card depicting activities on the White House lawn during the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.
President Bush left the White House after four eventful years. Upon their departure, First Lady Barbara Bush remarked, “As someone blessed with the extraordinary privilege of living here, it was a bit surprising that this house so quickly became our home…the White House must be many things to many people: repository of so much of our history, seat of government, public museum and, of course, private residence. This wonderful place fills each of these roles magnificently.”
Message on the Observance of Christmas 1989
Born into a family of a young carpenter and his wife, in a stable shared by beasts of the field, our Savior came to live among ordinary men. Yet, in time, the miraculous nature of this simple event became clear. Christ’s birth changed the course of history, bringing the light of hope to a world dwelling in the darkness of sin and death.Today, nearly 2,000 years later, the shining promise of that first Christmas continues to give our lives a sense of peace and purpose. Our words and deeds, when guided by the example of Christ’s life, can help others share in the joy of man’s Redemption. During Christmas, we may symbolize this spirit of giving through the exchange of presents, but it is daily acts of goodness and generosity — performed time and time again throughout the year — that hold the true meaning of this holy season. Every kind and selfless deed we perform for others can rekindle in our hearts and in our communities the light of that first Christmas.
As we gather with family and friends this season, let us recall what our Savior’s life means to the world. Let us also rededicate ourselves to sharing the love that gives greater meaning and joy to Christmas and to every moment of life.
Merry Christmas, and God bless you.~President George HW Bush
President William J. Clinton and First Lady Hillary 1993-2001
Over her eight White House holiday seasons, First Lady Hillary Clinton showcased the talents of America’s artistic communities. Her 1993 “angels” theme coincided with “The Year of American Craft,” and the Blue Room tree was decked in 7,000 fiber, ceramic, glass, metal and wood angel ornaments. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” tree in 1994 displayed decorations by American art students. The 1995 “A Visit From St. Nicholas” tree featured pieces by architecture students and members of the American Institute of Architects. Stockings by the American Needlepoint Guild and the Embroiderers Guild of America also hung from its boughs. In 1996, woodcraft artisans and professional ballet companies helped bring “The Nutcracker” tree theme to life.For Christmas 1997, Mrs. Clinton had the National Needlework Association and the Council of Fashion Designers of American join with glass artisans on a “Santa’s Workshop” theme. In 1998, “A Winter Wonderland” united fabric artists from each state with the Knitting Guild of America and the Society of Decorative Painters. Doll makers created toy replicas of American historical figures for the 1999 “Holiday Treasures at the White House” tree. In 2000, selected ornaments from Mrs. Clinton’s past themes were featured on a “Holiday Reflections” Blue Room tree. The theme for the annual White House Christmas is a well-kept secret until early December when plans are revealed by the First Lady. This can be difficult when the nation’s best folk artists and craftsmen are anxiously awaiting the theme so they may begin designing and hand crafting ornaments for the White House tree. In 1993, artisans from each of the fifty states, territories, and the District of Columbia used a variety of quilting techniques in creating the individual panels of a green velvet tree skirt in honor of the Clinton family’s first holiday season at the White House. For Christmas 1994, a beautiful 18-foot Colorado blue spruce arrived at the White House from Clinton County, Missouri. The theme that year was “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” one of the First Family’s favorite holiday songs. In 1998, Mrs. Clinton encouraged everyone to relive their holiday memories. Artists from across the country were asked to craft ornaments in the spirit of the season — from miniature snowmen to tiny skis, skates, toboggans, colorful mittens and hats — to complete the theme of a Winter Wonderland.
Going shopping at the malls, walking around and watching people always was a big part of Christmas for Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea-but one tradition not easily carried out as a First Family of the Land. Though the Clintons were all “pretty crazy … about celebrating Christmas,” according to the First Lady, the new President’s ambitious agenda for the country absorbed most of their attention. When informed that plans for the official Christmas card needed to be fully under way by May, the First Lady responded, “Being the type who’s relieved if my tree is up and decorated by Christmas Eve, I was shocked to hear this.”Even though planning for mistletoe and holly began during cherry blossom time, the task of choosing the design for the first official Christmas card was to present an unexpected challenge for the new administration. When the work of two artists was not accepted, and with time running short, photographer Neal Slavin came to the White House on Veterans Day to produce “instant art” depicting the President and First Lady posed before a decorated tree in the State Dining Room.
Simultaneously, the Clintons commissioned contemporary figurative artist Thomas McKnight to do the art for the second year’s card. He showed up at the White House during Christmas 1993 and took lots of photographs. His unique style was to adorn the next three official Presidential cards in his renderings of the Red Room, Blue Room and Green Room. Artist Kay Jackson pleased the Clintons with her rendition of the White House at night for the 1997 Christmas card.The showcase piece in the State Dining Room is always the traditional gingerbread house created by the White House Pastry Chef. In 1997, the house was a sentimental favorite of the First Lady, as it is a replica of her girlhood home on Wisner Street in Park Ridge, Illinois. The two front rooms are done as they would appear in “The Night Before Christmas” the bedroom is filled with children “all snug in their beds,” and the living room is complete with “stockings hung by the chimney with care.” The gingerbread house took nearly five months to create… and of course, the entire creation is edible.
The 1993 White House gingerbread house was dubbed the “House of Socks,” in honor of the Clintons’ cat. Pastry chef Roland Mesnier outfitted the gingerbread house with 21 marzipan figures of Socks in various poses, including the cat hauling Santa’s sleigh, ice-skating, playing a “Soxaphone,” and posing as a Secret Service agent.The four large trees that flank the front door and stand between the columns in the Grand Foyer have a special theme all their own. Decorated by chefs from cooking schools across the country, they are edible examples of the line, “while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads.” With marzipan, gingerbread, cookie dough, pastillage and chocolate, these culinary artists created some of this year’s most imaginative ornaments.
Also in the Grand Foyer, you will see the needlepoint “kissing ball” made by master needlepoint artist, Hyla Hurley of Washington, D.C. It is a miniature version of the tapestry which hangs in the First Family residence, and depicts the road to the White House, from the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock, via Monticello and a place called Hope.
Message on the Observance of Christmas 1996
Each year during this blessed season, the world pauses to look back across the centuries to the birth of a Child. This Child was born to poor but loving parents in the small town of Bethlehem—born into a world where few noticed His coming, except for some simple shepherds and a few wise men. He was the Son of God and the King of Kings, but He chose to come among us as servant and Savior.
Though two thousand years have passed since Jesus first walked the earth, much remains the same. Today’s world is still caught up in the challenges and cares of everyday existence, and too often we crowd God into the background of our experience. Too often we still ignore His loving presence in our lives and the precious gifts of peace and hope that He so freely offers to us all. And today, as on that first Christmas morning, He still reveals himself to the loving, the wise, and the simple of heart.As we gather with family and friends again this year to celebrate Christmas, let us welcome God wholeheartedly into our daily lives. Let us learn to recognize Him not only in the faces of our loved ones, but also in the faces of those who, like Jesus, are familiar with poverty, hardship, and rejection. And let us be inspired by His example to serve one another with generous hearts and open hands. In this way we will approach the dawn of a new century and a new millennium confident in God’s abundant grace and strengthened by His timeless promise of salvation.
Hillary joins me in praying that the peace and joy of this holiday season will remain with you throughout the coming year. Merry Christmas, and God bless you.~President William J. Clinton
Aaliyah Singing What Child Is This for the Clinton’s at Christmas in Washington 1998
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President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura 2001-2008
Message on the Observance of Christmas 2001
Christmas is a time of wonder and joy, of generosity and peace, that brings family and friends together in celebration and song. We sing old hymns and familiar carols, we show love for others in the giving of gifts, and we observe the hallowed traditions that make the season special. This year in the midst of extraordinary times, our Nation has shown the world that though there is great evil, there is a greater good. Americans have given of themselves, sacrificing to help others and showing the spirit of love and sharing that is so much a part of the Christmas season.
This Christmas we remember those who are without their loved ones. They continue to be in our hearts and prayers. May they experience peace, and may they find hope. And as we again celebrate Christ’s birth, may the glorious light of God’s goodness and love shine forth from our land.
Laura joins me in wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May God’s blessings of peace be upon us and upon the world.~George W. BushIn 2001, First Lady Laura Bush chose “Home for the Holidays” as the White House Christmas tree theme. Artists from all 50 states and the District of Columbia designed model replicas of historic homes and houses of worship to hang as ornaments.
For 2002, Mrs. Bush adopted the theme of “All Creatures Great and Small.” As an animal lover, she wanted to highlight the history and importance of pets in the White House. Perched on the boughs of the official tree are finely crafted representatives of America’s favorite birds. The tree stands in the oval Blue Room, an elegant space most often honored as the official center of holiday splendor in the White House.
The White House was closed to visitors for George and Mrs. Bush’s first Christmas in the Executive Mansion. Terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. changed the way many things were done in post 9/11 America.
In the Nov. 29, 2007, file photo above, an ornament honoring the Flight 93 National Monument hangs on the White House Christmas Tree during in the Blue Room at the White House during the presidency of George W. Bush.While the art for their first official card was already at Hallmark Cards for printing, Mrs. Bush changed her selection of a scripture verse to be incorporated in the card. The Bushes had consistently used scripture on their cards in the Governors Mansion. The verses taken from Psalm 27 read: “Thy face, Lord, do I seek: I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living.”
Adrian Martinez, an artist from Downingtown, PA, was chosen to paint the interior scene that graced the Bush’s first official card. The story of his youth and how he was selected makes for interesting reading in “Season’s Greetings from the White House.” The card featured the Second Floor Corridor of the White House with Mary Cassatt’s 1908 painting, Young Mother and Two Children. Mrs. Bush selected the Psalm for the card on September 16. At Camp David, the chaplain based his sermon on the Psalm, which was outlined in the lectionary for that September Sunday.With public access to the White House more restricted in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, first lady Laura Bush sent the family’s terrier, Barney, out to prowl the building with a little camera attached to his collar in 2002. Barney Cam’s 4.5-minute video tour of the mansion decorations got 24 million views in its first day on the White House Web site and his movies became an annual feature after that.
What started out in 1953 with President Eisenhower sending out 1000 White House Christmas cards, by the 21st century, had turned into a behemoth. In 2008, President Bush and the First Lady Laura sent 2.25 million cards to friends and associates.
President Bush Attends Lighting of the National Christmas Tree 2006
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Bush White House Christmas Party in 2008
President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush welcomed the children of servicemen to the White House for a Christmas party.
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A Very Barney Christmas in 2008
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First Lady Laura Bush Discusses White House Christmas Decorations in 2008
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President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle 2009-
President Barack H. Obama (born August 4, 1961) is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African-American to hold the office, as well as the first president born in Hawaii. Obama previously served as the junior United States Senator from Illinois from January 2005 until he resigned after his election to the presidency in November 2008.
Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was the president of the Harvard Law Review. He was a community organizer in Chicago before earning his law degree. He worked as a civil rights attorney in Chicago and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.
Obama served three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. Following an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he ran for United States Senate in 2004. During the campaign, several events brought him to national attention, such as his victory in the March 2004 Democratic primary election for the United States Senator from Illinois as well as his prime-time televised keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004. He won election to the U.S. Senate in November 2004.
Obama began his run for the presidency in February 2007. After a close campaign in the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries against Hillary Clinton, he won his party’s nomination. In the 2008 general election, he defeated Republican nominee John McCain and was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009. Obama is the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Please CLICK the symbol below to check out how the Obama’s are celebrating their first Christmas in the White House!
A special note of thanks goes to our friends at White House Christmas Cards, for allowing us to use some of their outstanding research material as part of this presentation. If you are interested in a more in-depth study of Christmas in the White House, we highly recommend you visit their site.