Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Celebrating the Holidays at the White House

The official Christmas tree was delivered to the North Portico of the White House in a horse-drawn carriage and presented to First Lady Michelle Obama on November 26. And on December 2 President Obama, the First Lady, and Vice President Biden hosted a Hanukkah celebration in the East Room of the White House in which the President remarked, "Let us give thanks to the blessings that all of us enjoy. Let us be mindful of those who need our prayers. And let us draw strength from the words of a great philosopher, who said that a miracle is “a confirmation of what is possible."

Learn More About American Holiday Traditions and White House History
The December holidays provide a fabulous opportunity to help young people learn about their own history and heritage, as well as the history, heritage, and traditions of others.  Following are some resources you can share with young people to engage their natural curiosity and introduce them to holiday traditions at the White House:

Watch a video of the delivery of this year's douglas fir Christmas tree from Lehighton, Pennsylvania to the White House on November 26.

Watch a video of the lighting of the menorah and the Hanukkah celebration at the White House.

Discover how the Christmas tree became a White House tradition and how farmers across America compete to grow the “Grand Champion” selected to adorn the White House each year in "Grand Champions of the White House" by guest writer Renee Critcher Lyons on Read on for an excerpt:

A tree has not always graced the White House at Christmastime. In fact, Franklin Pierce (1856), our 14th president, became the first to embrace the 500-year old tradition of bringing a tree into the home to celebrate the hope of Christmas morn. And, the practice did not become a yearly event until the 1880’s. Only one president since has frowned upon the use of an official White House Christmas tree, Teddy Roosevelt. Our 26th president (1901-1909), at a time before Christmas tree farms were prevalent, believed the harvesting of Christmas trees might deplete our national forests, and thus banned the practice from the White House.

Read about the history of the National Christmas Tree, which graces the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument, in "Our National Christmas Tree" by Cheli Mennella on Here is an excerpt:

The magnificent blue spruce towers above the Ellipse, the ground between the White House and the Washington Monument. Throughout the year it is a silent reminder of yuletide pleasures and joy. Then in December the tree takes on new significance. Dressed in strands of colorful lights and trimmed with ornaments, the tree, our National Christmas Tree, becomes a beacon of beauty and brilliance.

Special Note: This year's National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will be held Thursday, December 9 at 5:00 PM.  Nightly musical performances will take place each weeknight between 6:00 PM and 8:30 PM and each Saturday and Sunday between 1:00 PM and 8:30 PM. Read more on the National Park Service website.

Read Newbery-medal winning author Susan Cooper's contrasting memories of the White House--one at a time of sorrow and another at a time of Christmas splendor--in "Memory of the White House" on

Discover More About the White House and American History in Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out
For even more information and stories about White House holiday traditions, the presidents and first ladies, and American history, check out a copy of Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out from your local library and share the extensive fiction and nonfiction pieces and plethora of original art illustrations with the young people in your life.  To learn more about White House holidays, you might choose to read how the American hostage crisis in 1979 affected the lighting of the national Christmas tree during President Carter’s term in office in “From Christmas in Plains: Memories” by Jimmy Carter. 

Our White House: Looking In, Looking Out is sold in hardcover and paperback at bookstores everywhere. LEARN MORE about this anthology at