A Happy President for Christmas

From 1953 to 1961 the White House was home to President Eisenhower and his family.  This was a relatively happy and peaceful time in the US.  World War II and the conflict in Korea had ended, the unrest of Vietnam and Civil Rights were not yet upon us.  It was a time of prosperity.  The Eisenhower White House reflected this, especially at Christmas.  It was common practice for the President to host two parties at the holidays.  One for the political staff in the West Wing and another for the household staff of the White House.  Race practices of the time played a part in the separation.  The Eisenhowers were the first to hold a single party.  Mrs. Eisenhower supervised the plans the included over 500 guests!  Mamie was a Christmas devotee and wanted the day to be special for all.  She personally shopped at Washington department stores to purchase gifts and then hand wrapped them herself.  This was also to save money.  Mrs. Eisenhower took decorating to an all time high for the residence.  She had a record (at the time) 27 decorated trees.  Holiday music was played in every room and all the columns on the house were wrapped in greens.

1957 Eisenhower Christmas card

The Love of Christmas was not for Mamie alone.  President Eisenhower also enjoyed the holiday.  Ike was an avid artist and enjoyed creating Christmas cards and prints to be used by the White House.  In the eight years they lived there, the Eisenhowers used 38 different artist images for cards and gifts- a record number for any time.  The Eisenhower cards serve as a great piece of memorabilia from the time.

The connection between the Eisenhowers and Christmas continues today.  The Eisenhower National Historic site located in Gettysburg, PA hosts the annual event “An Eisenhower Christmas”.  The National Park Service hosts this annual event each December.  Visitors to the home see the house decorated as it would have been during the presidential years in the 50s.  The house is open to the public (entrance fees in 2011 were $7.50) and there are regional bus tours organized to visit the home.  It was even listed on the Frederick calendar of holiday events this past Christmas.  I will definitely be checking it out this December!

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