A Modern Christmas Tradition

From Washington, DC to Your Christmas Tree

by Melissa Clifton

Underlying the unique festivities, the colorful decoration, and the meaning we each ascribe to the holiday season, there are some patriotic traditions which can bring us closer together during this joyous time of year. Of all the traditions associated with our nation’s capital, some of the most beloved revolve around the holiday season; the laying of wreaths on the graves of fallen soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery, the Pageant of Peace and lightning of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse, and seasonal shows at the Washington National Cathedral and the Kennedy Center.

(Photo credit: https://wtop.com/arlington/2015/12/thousands-to-attend-wreath-laying-ceremony-at-arlington-national-cemetery/slide/1/)

The White House is rich in it’s own Christmas traditions which have been initiated by the residing generations of First Families. The installation of the first White House Christmas Tree in the Oval Blue Room in 1929 began with First Lady Lou Henry Hoover. The tradition was developed further by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961 who began what was to become the yearly selection of the tree’s theme as a duty of each subsequent First Lady. The First Ladies have since taken on themes close to their own hearts, thus allowing for the ornaments each year to become a memorable and important display.

Fortunately, for those of us who have not been invited to a Christmas party at the White House, the tradition of White House ornaments has not been limited to the First Ladies’ trees. The White House Historical Association has produced a remarkable collection of Official White House Christmas Ornaments every year since 1981. Each ornament pays homage to one of our presidents or significant events at the White House, starting with George Washington and continuing, in historical order, through President Harry S. Truman in the most recent 2018 creation. With purposeful details hidden in the intricately designed collectibles, uncovering the historical significance is almost as fun as decking your tree with these pieces of history, or gifting them to the history buff on your list.

Best of all, each ornament from the inception of this tradition has been created by the same veteran-owned company on the East Coast of the USA, making them a perfect fundraiser for your class trip or school tour to Washington, DC next year. Check out the non-profit White House Historical Association’s fundraising page for more details regarding this tradition for your next fundraiser.

Among the traditions you hold dear, we hope you consider bringing a small and beautiful piece of American history into your home. Happy holidays and a patriotic New Year from all of your friends at School Tours of America!

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