Today we kick off our President’s week. All of our posts this week will be related to presidential celebrations, traditions, or trivia
related to Christmas. What better place to start than with the official White House Christmas Tree? As with most recordings of firsts, there is some questions as to what is the actual first White House Christmas tree. The first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House was President Pierce in 1856. However this tree was put-up for a visiting group of children. The first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House for his family was Benjamin Harrison in 1889. Is this then the first White House tree? If we need some photographic proof the first pictures come from President Cleveland’s White House in 1895.
The tradition of the First Lady decorating the White House tree began with Lou Hoover and the first time it was referred to as the “official” White House Christmas tree. But before that there was a lighting ceremony that started with President Coolidge. You pick when the tradition began. I’m going with 1961. Why then?
In 1961 First Lady Jackie Kennedy began a new tradition of decorating the official White House Christmas Tree in a theme. The first theme she selected was the Nutcracker. The official tree is known by its location- the Blue Room Christmas Tree. Yes, it is important to know which of the trees in the White House is the official tree. There are many more trees placed throughout the presidential office/residence. It is not uncommon for there to be more than 20 trees at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The record was set in 2011 when the Obamas had 37 trees! (Sandra- you need 25 more trees to catch up!) This year marked 50 years of themed White House Christmas Trees. There have been lots of traditional themes and some a little more avant-garde. Check out the official list- White House Christmas Tree Themes.
Where does the President get the tree? The official tree is donated by the National
Christmas Tree Association. It is selected in an annual contest by the member growers. The trees are generally about 20 feet in height. The arrival of this tall tree requires the removal of the chandelier in the Blue Room. North Carolina holds the pride of having the most trees come from their state at 11. The closest White House tree to us here in Frederick was the 2009 that came from Shepherdstown, WV. If you ever have a chance to tour the home at Christmas you definitely should. The White House Christmas tree is a great holiday tradition!