Monday, November 27, 2017

Christmas Tree Themes

On the morning of December 25, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison gathered his family around the first indoor White House Christmas tree. It stood in the upstairs oval room, branches adorned with lit candles. First Lady Caroline Harrison, an artist, helped decorate the tree. As our nation's hostess, she set the stage for what would eventually become a much-beloved holiday tradition.

Not all White House families after the Harrisons set up interior Christmas trees. First Lady Grace Coolidge had them in the 1920s, but it was First Lady Lou Henry Hoover who started the as yet unbroken custom. In 1929, she oversaw the decoration of the first "official" tree. Since that time, the honor of trimming the principle White House Christmas tree has belonged to our first ladies.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy refines the season 1961-1962


In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree. She decorated a tree placed in the oval Blue Room with ornamental toys, birds and angels modeled after Petr Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" ballet. Mrs. Kennedy reused these ornaments in 1962 for her children's theme tree. Set up in the North Entrance, this festive tree also featured brightly wrapped packages, candy canes, gingerbread cookies and straw ornaments made by disabled or senior citizen craftspeople throughout the United States. 

Lady Bird Johnson’s Americana  1963-68


The Lyndon B. Johnson Administration began during a time of great uncertainty. In November 1963, the assassination of President Kennedy had stunned America. New First Lady Claudia "Lady Bird" Johnson certainly felt a desire to help the nation heal. She chose comforting and nostalgic holiday decor during her White House years. Her 1965 and 1966 Blue Room Christmas trees were decorated in an early American theme. They featured thousands of small traditional ornaments, including nuts, fruit, popcorn, dried seedpods, gingerbread cookies and wood roses from Hawaii. Paper mache angels graced the tops of the trees. For the 1967 holiday season, Mrs. Johnson added silver balls, silver stars and round mirrors to the previous years' ornaments.