First White House Ornament- 1981
Each year since 1981 the White House Historical Association has produced and sold the official White House Christmas Ornaments. The ornament program was created to help raise funds for the association and its work for preservation and education of White House History. The 1981 ornament was a simple brass ornament modeled after weather vanes from the colonial period. President and Mrs. Reagan began the tradition of hanging the ornament on the tree in the Blue Room at the White House. The ornaments initially were simple designs made of brass. Over the years the ornaments grew more elaborate, adding color and more intricate patterns and details. All come in an official WHHA box and include a small booklet with the history connected to the theme of that year’s ornament. The ornaments have become must-have items for many collectors.
2011 White House Ornament
The 2011 ornament celebrates the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Christmas was a very important holiday for the Roosevelt family. The President and First Lady insisted the day be focused on family and official business was put aside for the day. The family celebrations included family meals for breakfast and dinner with great sweets and even ice cream for the children. The family always included a carriage or sleigh ride as part of their Christmas day activities. The children found stockings full of treats and larger gifts waiting for them when they awoke. What was different for the Roosevelt family was the lack of a Christmas tree. The President did not have any tress in the WHite House due to his strong conservationist beliefs. The children enjoyed the tree at a nearby aunt’s home most years. His son Archie did rebel a little and put up his own secret tree in his closet one year. Read more about the Roosevelts at the 2011 Ornament Page. The White House ornaments could make the perfect annual gift for someone on your list. You can still purchase a 2011 ornament for your very own for $17.95. If you want to catch-up, all 31 ornaments are available as a set for just $359.95.
Lighting of the National Christmas Tree, 12/24/41
Times of war and difficulty do not hold for Christmas. Our Presidents know this better than many. Many Christmases in the 20th century saw the US at war with other nations, our troops fighting or preparing for battle. Christmas 1941 was one of these challenging Christmases. The US had only weeks earlier been attacked by the empire of Japan at Pearl Harbor. Americans all prepared for war. Citizens closely listened to the words from President Roosevelt. His words rallied a nation to service to become what many call the “greatest generation”. Christmas Eve 1941 was a night of inspiring words from our President. FDR made his speech from the south portico of the WHite House following the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. His opening words captured the moment well:
“Fellow workers for freedom: There are many men and women in America- sincere and faithful men and women—who are asking themselves this Christmas:
How can we light our trees? How can we give our gifts? How can we meet and worship with love and with uplifted spirit and heart in a world at war, a world of fighting and suffering and death? How can we pause, even for a day, even for Christmas Day, in our urgent labor of arming a decent humanity against the enemies which beset it? How can we put the world aside, as men and women put the world aside in peaceful years, to rejoice in the birth of Christ? These are natural—inevitable—questions in every part of the world which is resisting the evil thing. And even as we ask these questions, we know the answer. There is another preparation demanded of this Nation beyond and beside the preparation of weapons and materials of war. There is demanded also of us the preparation of our hearts; the arming of our hearts. And when we make ready our hearts for the labor and the suffering and the ultimate victory which lie ahead, then we observe Christmas Day—with all of its memories and all of its meanings—as we should.”
Roosevelt concluded his remarks and then introduced his surprise guest to share remarks with the American people. Winston Churchill had arrived in Washington just weeks after Pearl Harbor for secret meetings with FDR, code-named “Arcadia”. Today we know the meeting as the First Washington Conference. Churchill was staying at the White House and joined FDR for the tree lighting ceremony. His visit was wildly popular with the Americans, other than Mrs. Roosevelt- she found her guest to be a but much, to say the least! Churchill echoed the ideas shared by the President. “Let the children have their night of fun and laughter… Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.” Take a moment and watch the recording from that night- Tree Lighting 1941. It is truly remarkable how the magic of Christmas serves to unite people, families, and even a nation in times of trouble.