Grandmother Remembers, Christmas at the White House
Christmas is the biggest holiday on the American calendar, and the White House is the home of the nation's Chief Executive. How the most powerful family in the land celebrates the most popular holiday in the land makes for an important story for young readers and listeners. It's important because Presidents in celebration are far more accessible than Presidents being statesmen.
Who can imagine Herbert Hoover leading a line of children and other Christmas Eve party-goers through the White House in search of Santa? It would surprise many that the President who brought the nation out of the Great Depression and through World War II was also the biggest Christmas fan who ever lived in the White House. Franklin Roosevelt made Christmas into a three-day festival, highlighted by his traditional Christmas Eve reading of Dickens' "Christmas Carol" to his whole family.
Dwight Eisenhower personally painted the art that was reproduced for the cards he and Marrie sent for Christmas. Lyndon Johnson's Christmas stocking was decorated with a map of Texas, a picture of his LBJ ranch, likenesses of his horse and his dogs, and other symbols of personal significance to him.
First Ladies play an important part in the festivities, too. Eleanor Roosewelt bought Christmas gifts all year long and stored them in her special Christmas closet. Marrie Eisenhower created a splashy show with her 26 Christmas trees spread throughout the White House Pat Nixon initiated the Christmastime candlelight tours of the public rooms Barbara Bush rode a cherry picker to the top of the National Christmas Tree to place the star a record-breaking 12 times; invariably she took along one or two of her grandchildren.
This bookis an easy introduction to our Presidents beginning with Calvin Coolidge. It presents them as real people with their own traditions and historical milieu. Despite personal differences, however, First Families celebrate Christmas just as do families all across the land. They go Christmas shopping, sing Christmas carols, decorate their own rooms and hang stockings. They give Christmas parties and enjoy holiday food. They send Christmas cards and give gifts and wish everyone they talk to or meet a "Merry Christmas"
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