Is Christmas a day off from work? A solemn religious observance? An extravagant affair? A secular “holiday season”? Many of our expectations, attitudes, and ideals surrounding Christmas have been established or reflected by Presidents and First Ladies throughout history. Here are 12 famous firsts.
Franklin Pierce brings a Christmas tree into the White House. There’s some dispute over whether this was officially a White House Christmas tree. See below.
Abraham Lincoln pardons the turkey that was meant to be the main course at Christmas dinner
Ulysses S. Grant declares Christmas a legal holiday
Benjamin Harrison places a Christmas tree in the Second Floor Oval Room. Many consider this the first official White House Christmas tree.
Grover Cleveland is the first to use electric Christmas lights on a presidential Christmas tree
Theodore Roosevelt bans Christmas trees from the White House, due to environmental conservation concerns. But his son smuggled one in and hid it in a sewing room closet.
Calvin Coolidge lights a tree on the White House lawn
Calvin Coolidge makes Christmas Eve a holiday for all federal employees
Dwight Eisenhower sends the first official presidential Christmas card
Dwight Eisenhower broadcasts a Christmas message from space via the first American satellite
Jacqueline Kennedy starts the tradition of a decorative theme for the White House Christmas tree. (Her first theme was The Nutcracker”)
The Clinton’s “holiday cards” do not mention the word “Christmas”