On This Day in 1961

Jackie Kennedy Inaugurates a White House Christmas Tree Tradition, Updated by the Obamas

The White House marked its first Christmas Eve with a themed tree on December 24, 1961. First Lady and fashion darling Jackie Kennedy had already made history by appointing a White House curator and forming the Fine Arts Committee to restore the residence. Her next order of business was relocating the presidential Christmas tree from the family quarters to the more public Blue Room, giving it a festive makeover that paid homage to Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, with candy canes, miniature toys and gingerbread cookies. The practice has become de rigueur for First Ladies ever since, and this year Michelle Obama took her second pass at the tradition, with a Douglas fir measuring 18 feet high and 12 feet wide. Her chosen motif "Gift of the American Spirit" honors state and county fairs with prize ribbons and humble handmade decorations constructed from locally sourced materials. Below we provide a rundown of 50 years of White House tree themes. 

  • 1961: Jacqueline Kennedy––The Nutcracker
  • 1967: Claudia Johnson––Early America
  • 1970: Pat Nixon––Flowers
  • 1975: Betty Ford––A Children's Christmas
  • 1977: Rosalind Carter––Foil and Eggshell Ornaments
  • 1982: Nancy Reagan––Metallic Cones and Snowflakes
  • 1991: Barbara Bush––Needlework
  • 1996: Hilary Clinton––The Nutcracker 
  • 2006: Laura Bush––Deck the Halls
  • 2010: Michelle Obama––Gift of the American Spirit


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