Christmas at the White House

[guest name="Carlyn Reichel" biography="America.gov guest blogger Carlyn Reichel joins the State Department having recently completed a master's degree in public policy. While writing has long been one of Carlyn’s hobbies, it wasn’t until graduate school that she presumed she had something to say worth sharing – even when she didn’t. She previously worked in public relations and continues to be a political junkie, a history and literature nerd, and a concerned global citizen. "]

White House Christmas tree

Last evening, Barack Obama took part in a decades-old presidential tradition: lighting the National Christmas Tree. “In times of war and peace, hardship and joy,” Obama said, “Americans from every corner of this nation have gathered here to share in the holiday spirit.”

Almost 10,000 people of all ages (including yours truly) gathered on the Ellipse just south of the White House to watch the celebration live last night.

Hosted by American Idol judge Randy Jackson, the evening’s festivities included musical performances by 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, singers Sheryl Crow and Ray LaMontagne, Irish group Celtic Woman, jazz saxophonist Joshua Redman, hip-hop artist Common and the fifth-graders of the PS22 Chorus from Staten Island. First Lady Michelle Obama read the classic “‘Twas the Night before Christmas” to a group of children. Even Santa and Mrs. Clause stopped by with one of their elves to spread cheer and report on the “state of the elf union.”

Event organizers and the National Park Service distributed 7,000 more tickets this year than last, and for the first time, the event was streamed live over the Web as well as carried on public broadcasting stations. In another first, the National Tree is decorated only with energy-efficient LED lights this year, which will reduce the tree’s overall energy consumption by approximately two-thirds.

Calvin Coolidge was the first president to light the national tree on December 24, 1923. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was joined by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill for the ceremony in 1941, just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In 1954, the lighting was moved to early December and became the “Christmas Pageant of Peace,” which continues with three weeks of performances by various community organizations from across the country. The National Tree is also flanked by 56 smaller trees forming the “Christmas Pathway of Peace” – one for each state, U.S. territory and the District of Columbia – decorated by local groups in each region.

According to Obama, the Pageant of Peace is “a tradition that has come to represent more than any one holiday or religion, but a season of brotherhood and generosity to our fellow citizens.” As part of the audience, I can attest that this was the case last night. Despite the chilly winter evening, the two-hour wait for the program to start and occasional difficulties with the sound system, the good-feeling of the evening was everywhere, and we all walked out singing carols together. Even, I suspect, President Obama.

16 thoughts on “Christmas at the White House

  1. Celebrating Jesus’s birth, is remembering the poor conditions he lived with, that he has wanted to preserve all his live by SOLIDARITY with poor families.
    At that time, because they had access to sane water and food, they usually could live, looking at the stars in the sky, hopefully.
    Today, some poor families have insane water, and so their agriculture is detroyed, sometimes definitively because of CHEMICALS (around the cities or in war zone), and when they try to distinguish something in the sky, it’s unsuccessfully because of pollution, and anguishly afraid of rockets from expensive planes. In some case, their chance of survival are null.
    http://willyloman.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/un-special-rapporteur-on-extrajudicial-killings-philip-alston-record-afpak-drone-attacks-under-obama-may-violate-international-law/ http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2009/11/05/afghan_villagers_say_nato_strike_killed_9_civilians http://www.examiner.com/a-2327409~Death_of_6_civilians_in_Pakistan_sparks_protest.html http://www.pakistanconflictmonitor.org/2009/11/aid-workers-worried-for-civilians-in-war-zone-.html

  2. Christmas Tree what a beautiful concept, 1924 – 2009 85yrs truly a season of brotherhood and that has descended across th world to NZ, a little town called Paeroa to a family of know real consequence beside th fact that i am passionate about how Barack and Michelle
    decision makings are affecting America by engaging th world, I feel so blessed to be able to send this comment just to say, at the end of the day, no matter what the Nation, w all yearn for the path way of peace. and the humblenes to which President Obama recieved his appointment, was so moving to me, they may not realise, that they for many indigenous races around th world, he became like that huge Christmas Tree which shone upon th 10,000 all giving them hope for th future, thank you you give me hope and we bles you

  3. If you want to know more about how the White House decorates at Christmas, here’s a new book out called Christmas at the White House (by Jennifer Pickens, Fife and Drum Press) who is a political fundraiser based in Texas. She had incredible access to the White House and was able to get more than 50 years of photos and stories of how the various first families celebrated during Christmas, starting with the Kennedys. Laura Bush wrote the introduction, and all six living first ladies contributed, as well as their families and other White House insiders. http://www.christmasatthewhitehouse.com

  4. Celebrating Jesus’s birth, reminds us the difficult conditions of birth in the “climate wars” DESERTING areas, http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2009/11/20/afghanistan-is-world-s-worst-place-to-be-born-u-n.html http://www.scribepublications.com.au/book/climatewars http://greeneconomics.blogspot.com/2006/01/adjusting-to-climate-change-in-africa.html http://www.soschildrensvillages.org.uk/charity-news/sos-somali-doctor-.htm it’s why the more moving job, is the doctor who helps the mother to give birth, more often called gynecologist, like the US Senator Dr Ron Paul.

  5. Celebrating Jesus’s birth, is remembering the poor conditions he lived with, that he has wanted to preserve all his life by SOLIDARITY with poor families.
    At that time, because they had access to sane water and food, they usually could live, looking at the stars in the sky, hopefully.
    Today, some poor families have insane water, and so their agriculture is destroyed, sometimes definitively because of CHEMICALS (around the cities or in war zone), and when they try to distinguish something in the sky, it’s unsuccessfully because of pollution, and anguishly afraid of rockets from expensive planes. In some case, their chance of survival are null.
    http://willyloman.wordpress.com/2009/10/29/un-special-rapporteur-on-extrajudicial-killings-philip-alston-record-afpak-drone-attacks-under-obama-may-violate-international-law/ http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2009/11/05/afghan_villagers_say_nato_strike_killed_9_civilians http://www.examiner.com/a-2327409~Death_of_6_civilians_in_Pakistan_sparks_protest.html http://www.pakistanconflictmonitor.org/2009/11/aid-workers-worried-for-civilians-in-war-zone-.html

  6. Wow, that’s beautiful! No matter who sits in the white house, the Christmas is always a wonder!

    Anatomy My website :)

    Merry Christmas!

  7. there’s a new book out that researched the history of the official White House Christmas tree, along with other traditions, decorations and Christmas memories spanning 50 years of administrations. It starts with the Kennedys and goes through George W. Bush. The photos are wonderful, and the author seemed to really do her research. It’s very informative. check it out if you’re interested in the history of a lot of the Christmas traditions at the White House. the publisher’s website is http://www.fifeanddrumpress.com

  8. There is a great beauty for what Christmas means. As my second grader study the President’s Christmas with his family I hope he won’t forget about us.

    As you enjoy all of the highlife remember that there are many in my school who won’t have Christmas, because they can’t afford it.

    We study you because I want you let my students know that you are the peoples president. Sir don’t let them down as the prepare to give their last to make someones christmas better.

    What can you do for my 23 second graders that reminds them that they matter and haven’t been forgotten?

    Dr. Karen Parker and her second grade class who have been taught to love you.

  9. Thak you Mr. President, !!
    I found refreschingly respectful to see the messages at the offices on the border between our countries….Now it can be read : Welcome to the United States,…or The Personel will treat you with respect and honour your culture….!
    That does not speak good about we mexicans, but it does about you americans and the new leadership you embrace!

    God bless you, your country and help you allways specially during your administration.

  10. Thank you Michelle for the video on the christmas tree, i enjoined your commentry, was blown away with the scale of preparations especially sending th balls to every state to have them decorated thn getting all those voluntary helpers, it made me teary eyed, because this not a campaign stunt.. this is the heart of America, allowing the people to unite in a cause that benefits all, thn allow thousands to walk through the white house to see th christmas tree to me you show yourselfs to be truly for th people, may God bless th intent of your hearts and may he prosper you with continued wisdom to soar like the eagle, merry christmas happy holiday in Hawaii, our Prime minister Keys holidaying there as well

  11. It is a little late to wish a merry christmas but I will still do it.

    I was in China with Christmas and really missed the way it is celebrated in the US.

    So Merry Christmas to you too mr. President and everybody in the white house.

    Some healthy fruit for you:
    Maqui Berry

  12. I did not watch it, I was busy baking cookies and then I went over to my youngest daughters house for a visit, I missed the whole darn thing!
    What song did ray lamontagne sing at the national christmas tree lighting of 2009?

  13. I was busy baking cookies and then I went over to my youngest daughters house for a visit, I missed the whole darn thing!
    What song did ray lamontagne sing at the national christmas tree lighting of 2009?