The White House Christmas Tree is also known as the Blue Room Christmas Tree. It is the official indoor Christmas tree at the residence of the President of the United States. The tree has a long and storied tradition. We give you just some of the facts regarding the Christmas tree.
- The first Christmas tree was placed by President Benjamin Harrison in 1889. Back then, President Harrison placed the tree in the Second Floor Oval Room. He decorated the tree with candles, toys, and other ornaments designed to impress his grandchildren. But not all presidents have followed his example. In the next several years, the tradition depended on the presence of young children and grandchildren in the White House
- President William H. Taft’s children were the first to place a Christmas tree in the Blue Room in 1912. The President and his wife were away on a trip to Panama. His children, however, placed a tree as a surprise for the brother and sister of the first lady, and their seven young children who were guests at the White House
- Jacqueline Kennedy is widely regarded as one of the most influential presidential wives. She was the first one to select a theme for the official Christmas Tree. In 1961, she decorated the tree in the oval Blue Room with toys, birds, and angels, inspired by the Nutcracker ballet by Tchaikovsky. Since then, the First Lady selects the theme for the Christmas tree
- There have been many interesting themes over the years. We will mention just some of the recent ones. For example, Hillary Clinton showcases the talents of America’s artistic communities during her time as a First Lady. Laura Bush included a “All Creatures Grand and Small” theme in 2002 as a way to pay tribute to animals and pets in the White House history. She also installed the patriotic theme in 2008 by letters from Americans after September 11. Michelle Obama in 2010 used a theme “Simple Gifts”, explaining that “The greatest blessings of all are the ones that don't cost a thing: the time that we spend with our loved ones, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans and the joy we feel from reaching out to those in need"
- The tree is selected by the National Christmas Tree Association. The Association holds a national competition since 1966 to select the tree. People who want to quality must win their state and regional competition first, and then qualify for the nationals
- The first lady plans the theme and the decorations in the White House one year ahead. Planning the tree takes a lot of time, because you have to plan different colors, designs, elements, and motives for the White House. And while planning takes 1 years, execution takes 5 days
- Decorating the Christmas tree and the White House requires a lot of people, and every year there are more than 100 volunteers helping sort, arrange, and place Christmas decorations. Those who send letters where they express their passion and desire for work are usually selected. The tree itself requires 25 people working in the same time to decorate and place it in the room
- There have been a couple of controversies surrounding the Christmas tree. For example, Nixon and his administration were criticized for selecting the “atomic symbol of peace” rather than the traditional star for a tree toper. In 1995, ornaments were made by architecture students, and the contest winner Rene Spineto was criticized for his two stockings. He marked one “Bill” and the other “Newt” in reference to the President and the Speaker of the Hose Newt Gingrich. The problem was, “Bill” was filled with candy and presents, while “Newt” was filled with coal. The administration hung the ornament on the tree without censorship. But there have been times when the ornaments were censored. For example, in 2008, one of the ornaments, designed by Deborah Lawrence, was rejected. The ornament was a red and white striped 9-inch ball with the words “Impeach Bush” emblazoned on it
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