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President Coolidge lights first national Christmas tree

President Coolidge lights first national Christmas tree



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On December 24, 1923, President Calvin Coolidge touches a button and lights up the first national Christmas tree to grace the White House grounds.

Not only was this the first White House “community” Christmas tree, but it was the first to be decorated with electric lights–a strand of 2,500 red, white and green bulbs. The balsam fir came from Coolidge’s home state of Vermont and stood 48 feet tall. Several musical groups performed at the tree-lighting ceremony, including the Epiphany Church choir and the U.S. Marine Band. Later that evening, President Coolidge and first lady Grace were treated to carols sung by members of Washington, D.C.’s First Congregational Church.

According to the White House Historical Association, President Benjamin Harrison was the first president to set up an indoor Christmas tree for his family and visitors to enjoy in 1889. It was decorated with ornaments and candles. In 1929, first lady Lou Henry Hoover oversaw what would become an annual tradition of decorating the indoor White House tree. Since then, each first lady’s duties have included the trimming of the official White House tree.

Coolidge’s “inauguration” of the first outdoor national Christmas tree initiated a tradition that has been repeated with every administration. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan began another custom by authorizing the first official White House ornament, copies of which were made available for purchase.

READ MORE: The History of Christmas Trees


History of Electric Christmas Tree Lights

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    Like so many things electrical, the history of electric Christmas lights begins with Thomas Edison. During the Christmas season of 1880, Edison, who had invented the incandescent bulb the previous year, hung strings of electric lights outside his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

    An article in the New York Times on December 21, 1880, described a visit by officials from the New York City government to Edison's laboratory in Menlo Park. The walk from the train station to Edison's building was lined with electric lamps was illuminated with 290 light bulbs "which cast a soft and mellow light on all sides."

    Did You Know?

    • The first use of electric Christmas lighting was by Thomas Edison in 1880.
    • The first illuminated Christmas tree was shown off by one of Edison's employees to reporters who visited his Manhattan house in 1882.
    • Electric lights were very costly at first and required the services of a trained electrician.
    • When the cost of electric lights became affordable, their use quickly spread as they were much safer than candles.

    It doesn't appear from the article that Edison intended the lights to be associated with Christmas. But he was hosting a holiday dinner for the delegation from New York, and the novel lighting seemed to fit in with the holiday mood.

    Up to that time, it was common to illuminate Christmas trees with small candles, which could, of course, be dangerous. In 1882, an employee of Edison put on a show with electric lights that was fully intended to establish the practical application of electricity to the celebration of Christmas. Edward H. Johnson, a close friend of Edison and the president of the company Edison formed to provide illumination in New York City, used electric lights for the first time to illuminate a Christmas tree.


    Question Who invented electric Christmas lights?

    Thomas Edison and Edward Johnson (1880 &1882) and Albert Sadacca (1917).

    National Christmas Tree on the National Mall, 1997. Carol M. Highsmith, photographer. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

    Thomas Edison, the inventor of the first successful practical light bulb, created the very first strand of electric lights. During the Christmas season of 1880, these strands were strung around the outside of his Menlo Park Laboratory. Railroad passengers traveling by the laboratory got their first look at an electrical light display. But it would take almost forty years for electric Christmas lights to become the tradition that we all know and love.

    Before electric Christmas lights, families would use candles to light up their Christmas trees. This practice was often dangerous and led to many home fires. Edward H. Johnson put the very first string of electric Christmas tree lights together in 1882. Johnson, Edison’s friend and partner in the Edison’s Illumination Company, hand-wired 80 red, white and blue light bulbs and wound them around his Christmas tree. Not only was the tree illuminated with electricity, it also revolved.

    The National Christmas Tree, 1923. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

    However, the world was not quite ready for electrical illumination. There was a great mistrust of electricity and it would take many more years for society to decorate its Christmas trees and homes with electric lights. Some credit President Grover Cleveland with spurring the acceptance of indoor electric Christmas lights. In 1895, President Cleveland requested that the White House family Christmas tree be illuminated by hundreds of multi-colored electric light bulbs.

    On Christmas Eve 1923, President Calvin Coolidge began the country’s celebration of Christmas by lighting the National Christmas Tree with 3,000 electric lights on the Ellipse located south of the White House.

    Potomac Electric Power, Christmas greetings. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

    Until 1903, when General Electric began to offer pre-assembled kits of Christmas lights, stringed lights were reserved for the wealthy and electrically savvy. The wiring of electric lights was very expensive and required the hiring of the services of a wireman, our modern-day electrician. According to some, to light an average Christmas tree with electric lights before 1903 would have cost $2000.00 in today’s dollars.

    Eisenhower Home Decorated for the Holidays. Eisenhower National Historical Site, National Park Service.

    While Thomas Edison and Edward H. Johnson may have been the first to create electric strands of light in 1880/1882, it was Albert Sadacca who saw a future in selling electric Christmas lights. The Sadacca family owned a novelty lighting company and in 1917 Albert, a teenager at the time, suggested that its store offer brightly colored strands of Christmas lights to the public. By the 1920’s Albert and his brothers organized the National Outfit Manufacturers Association (NOMA), a trade association. NOMA soon became NOMA Electric Co., with its members cornering the Christmas light market until the 1960’s.

    Today we expect to see the holiday season become aglow with electric strands of light. Think of the variety and range of Christmas lights available in today’s market. We can be grateful to Thomas Edison, Edward H. Johnson and Albert Sadacca for illuminating our holiday season.

    What is a home without love? J. D. Cress, c1900. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

    Published: 11/19/2019. Author: Science Reference Section, Library of Congress


    President Coolidge lights first national Christmas tree - HISTORY

    President Calvin Coolidge was known as Silent Cal, thrifty with his words and also thrifty with his pocketbook.

    Because he didn’t want to spent the extra $500 to install a button at the White House to turn on the lights for the first National Christmas Tree, President Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace walked to the Ellipse on the South Lawn on Dec. 24, 1923. There he pushed a button with his foot to turn on 3,000 lights adorning a 60-foot fir tree from Vermont, his birth state.

    Three years later, Coolidge became the first president to issue a Christmas Day message, which was printed in newspapers across the country.

    “Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think of these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world,” Calvin Coolidge, Dec. 25, 1927.

    Christmas in America started out as a holy day primarily observed by Anglicans, or members of the Church of England who settled colonies, such as Virginia. The Common Book of Prayer guided observers through the Advent season and the twelve days of Christmas.

    Some religious Puritans, who settled in Massachusetts in the 1600s, outlawed Christmas celebrations for a time because they wanted to reform the English church. The traditions of decorating homes and churches with greenery, singing carols, hosting balls, and drinking eggnog became so popular, that Christians of most denominations adopted them.

    The merriment and joy of this holy day became a national holiday in 1870, when President Ulysses Grant established Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and July 4, as national holidays to bring Americans together after the divisive Civil War.


    Since 1923, The National Christmas Tree Lighting has been a highly-anticipated holiday event and a celebrated American tradition

    For more than 90 years, the National Christmas Tree has been illuminated near the White House during the holiday season. It was 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge lit a 48-foot fir tree decorated with 2,500 electric bulbs in red, white, and green for the first time.

    The Epiphany Church choir and the U.S. Marine Band performed at the tree-lighting ceremony. The organizers named the tree the “National Christmas Tree.” Since then, the National Christmas Tree Lighting has been a highly-anticipated holiday event and a celebrated American tradition.

    “The first National Christmas Tree,” lit on December 24, 1923, in the middle of the Ellipse outside the White House

    The National Christmas Tree was relocated to Lafayette Park north of the White House in 1934. While in office President Franklin D. Roosevelt always used the tree-lighting ceremony to deliver a Christmas Eve message heard by radio listeners from coast to coast. The location was changed again in 1939, this time back to its original place on the Ellipse.

    In 1942, when World War II was in full swing, the National Christmas Tree went dark due to the need to conserve power and observe security restrictions on outdoor lighting. The National Christmas Tree was not re-lit until the end of the war in 1945. That year the lighting ceremony was hosted by President Harry Truman.

    Standing on the bandstand on the South Lawn, he said, “This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for through long and awful years. With peace come joy and gladness. The gloom of the war years fades as once more we light the National Community Christmas Tree.”

    President Coolidge lights the 1924 tree

    It was 1946 when the lighting ceremony was first televised. During the 1950s, the tree-lighting ceremony was moved to earlier in December. The tree is now officially illuminated at the beginning of the month.

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt speaks before lighting the 1941 National Christmas Tree. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (right) was a surprise guest.

    The ceremony changed very little between 1954 and 1972. After the death of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, the lighting ceremony was postponed until the thirty-day period of national mourning had passed. The tree of 1963 was not lit until December 22, when President Lyndon Johnson, accompanied by First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson and daughter Luci, opened the lighting ceremony saying, “Today we come to the end of a season of great national sorrow, and to the beginning of the season of great, eternal joy.” He shared his hope that the nation would “not lose the closeness and the sense of sharing and the spirit of mercy and compassion, which these last few days have brought to us all.”

    Red lights adorn the state trees surrounding the National Christmas tree in 1965. Smaller live trees representing the 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia, formed a “Pathway of Peace.”

    In 1979, when President Jimmy Carter sent his daughter Amy to light the tree on December 13, the switch lit only the star atop the National Christmas Tree. He told the crowd that the tree would remain dark until the American hostages in Iran were set free.

    In 1981, President Reagan lit the tree remotely from within the safety of the White House due to security concerns about assassination attempts.

    The Washington Monument glows behind the yet-to-be-lit 1979 U.S. National Christmas Tree

    In 1989, President George H. W. Bush resumed the tradition of lighting the National Christmas Tree, although he and his wife were directed to watch the festivities from a sealed glass room near the stage.

    In 1994, the Pageant of Peace was elaborated by a small model railroad that wove around the base of the tree.

    In 2001, President George W. Bush lit the tree along with the children of victims of September 11.


    The history of the Lighting of the National Christmas Tree is intertwined with the history of America. Through peace and war, from national celebration to national mourning, Americans have gathered together and celebrated the season in this holiday event.

    In November, First Lady Grace Coolidge gave permission for the District of Columbia Public Schools to erect a Christmas tree on the Ellipse south of the White House. The organizers named the tree the “National Christmas Tree.” That Christmas Eve, President Calvin Coolidge walked from the White House to the Ellipse and “pushed the button” to light the 48-foot Balsam fir, as enthusiastic spectators looked on.

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt never missed the opportunity to deliver a Christmas Eve message heard by radio listeners coast to coast. In Lafayette Park, north of the White House, two Frasier fir trees were planted on the east and west sides of the Jackson Statue in hopes that they would be used as the National Christmas Tree in alternate years. The 23-foot fir west of the Jackson Statue was used this year.

    A year before United States entered World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt condemned war, invoked the beatitudes of Christ, and called on “belligerent nations to read the Sermon on the Mount.” At the ceremony, he also prefaced his prepared remarks with an announcement that he and Mrs. Roosevelt would like the celebration moved to the South Lawn of the White House grounds next year. He remarked that such a shift in locale would make for a “more homey” celebration.

    President Truman lit the tree, which had not been lit since 1941, and delivered a Christmas message. Standing on the bandstand on the South Lawn, he said, “This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for through long and awful years. With peace come joy and gladness. The gloom of the war years fades as once more we light the National Community Christmas Tree.” Members of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts spoke at the lighting ceremony.

    Earl C. Hargrove Jr., with his good friend Bill Law, began decorating the National Christmas Tree this year, and Hargrove, Inc. — Earl’s company — has continued that tradition to the present day. The two men trucked in a 60-foot tree and had to secure it in a custom stand. The National Park Service erected several stories of staging to help them. Unfortunately for Hargrove, there was no such thing as a “string” of lights. He manually installed sockets every foot on several hundred feet of wire and screwed in and tested every bulb. When bulbs became a finicky, Hargrove would climb up and fix them in a Santa costume!

    1954-1956

    In 1954 the Washington Board of Trade and the Washington Citizen’s Committee conceived of a wider celebration called the “Christmas Pageant of Peace” in which the tree lighting event expanded to three weeks. A “Pathway of Peace” was composed of smaller trees representing all the states, territories and the District of Columbia. The 1954 opening ceremony was held December 17, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower turned the switch. The longer event, with local nightly entertainment, proved very popular and continues to the present. Shown here, the 67-foot Engelmann spruce from New Mexico placed on the Ellipse in preparation for the second annual “Christmas Pageant of Peace” in 1956.

    After the death of President Kennedy on November 22, the lighting ceremony was postponed until the thirty-day period of national mourning had passed. On December 22, President Lyndon Johnson, accompanied by First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and daughter Luci, opened the lighting ceremony saying, “Today we come to the end of a season of great national sorrow, and to the beginning of the season of great, eternal joy. He shared his hope that the nation would “not lose the closeness and the sense of sharing and the spirit of mercy and compassion, which these last few days have brought to us all.” General Electric designs the lighting and decorations for the National Christmas Tree for the first time.

    After the death of two previous live trees planted on the Ellipse, National Park Service horticulturalists searched for a new National Christmas Tree that would be healthy and strong enough to survive a move to the Ellipse. They found a Colorado blue spruce in York, Pennsylvania at the home of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Myers. When the tree was six years old it had been planted in the Myers’ front yard as a Mother’s Day gift. The tree was 15 years old and 30 feet tall when it arrived in our Nation’s capital 30 years ago. President Jimmy Carter and his daughter Amy were the first to light this special tree.

    Through the 1970s and 1980s, kids often helped the President light the National Christmas Tree. In 1983 seven-year-old Amy Bentham joined President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in lighting the tree. Amy had written to the “Make a Wish” program saying “The Christmas tree that lights up for our country must be seen all the way to heaven. I would wish so much to help the President turn on those Christmas lights.”

    President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, with the assistance of two area Washington, DC schoolchildren, seven year olds Samara Banks and Benjamin Schneiller lit the tree. Samara and Benjamin participated in the President’s “Call to Service” program by volunteering their time to prepare and distribute food for homeless men and women in the Washington, DC area.

    LED Christmas lights were used on the National Christmas Tree at the request of the White House GE thus made the National Christmas Tree more energy-efficient than ever before. GE has been designing the National Christmas Tree since 1963, producing and donating the lighting and decorations.

    Powered almost entirely by light-emitting computer chips called LEDs, the 2008 National Christmas Tree display was 50 percent more energy efficient than the 2007 display. This is also the first time Santa’s Workshop was found along the Christmas Pathway of Peace, sharing holiday cheer and safety tips with all families this December.

    Helping kick off the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, the theme of the 2015 National Christmas Tree paid ode to this momentous occasion, trimmed with sparkling gold ribbon and silvery white stars and lights, colors and trappings that are traditionally used for milestone celebrations. The Lighting Ceremony itself interwove the Centennial theme. Everyone that took to the stage that evening – from President Obama to musical talent – had the opportunity to shine a spotlight on their personal connection to national parks.


    A Coolidge Christmas

    The National Christmas Tree being installed on the Ellipse of the White House in December 1923. The tree was a gift from Middlebury College, located in President Coolidge’s home state of Vermont.

    In 1923 holiday anticipation grew among Washington residents, especially among the First Family. President Coolidge and First Lady Grace Coolidge awaited the arrival of their sons Calvin, Jr. and John, who were to be home for the holidays returning from school in Pennsylvania on December 18. Mrs. Coolidge had completed her shopping and the Washington Post reported, “just what she bought for John and Calvin, Jr. is being kept as much a secret as though the boys were of the Santa Claus age.” 1

    The spirit of the holidays was evident at the White House with holly and mistletoe decorations on the first and second floors and the White House offices brightened with holly wreaths with red ribbons. 2 On December 22, President Coolidge sent an intercontinental Christmas greeting to Captain Donald B. MacMillan and a six-man crew of arctic explorers who may have been the closest people to North Pole that holiday season. Amateur radio operators from the American Radio Relay League carried the message via shortwave ham radios. 3

    First Lady Grace Coolidge helps distribute Christmas food baskets at the Salvation Army to local Washingtonians. Throughout her time as first lady, Mrs. Coolidge volunteered during the busy holiday seasons to help those in need.

    On Christmas Eve, Mrs. Coolidge assisted the Salvation Army in distributing food baskets at their headquarters. In addition to helping the needy, Mrs. Coolidge also sent 50 bouquets of White House roses to the homes of women working in D.C. shops who helped Mrs. Coolidge with her Christmas gift shopping. 4 Government offices closed early at 1:00 p.m. to allow workers “a half-day shopping” before Christmas morning. 5

    President Coolidge spent Christmas Eve at meetings with callers to the White House and clearing his desk before the holiday. Before adjourning for the day he sent a Christmas message to America’s disabled veterans of World War I, telling them, “The heart of America is with those who made the great sacrifice in defense of our ideals.” 6

    Crowds begin to gather Christmas Eve at the National Christmas Tree. Over 6,000 visitors came to see the lighting ceremony and the subsequent singing of carols and a performance from the U.S. Marine Band.

    At 5:00 p.m., President Coolidge pressed the button lighting the first National Christmas Tree located on the Ellipse, south of of the White House. The balsam fir from the Green Mountains of Vermont (a gift of Middlebury College) featured over 2,500 electric light bulbs. 7

    The origin of the national tree lighting ceremony involved both local and national organizations. Since late November, Lucretia Walker Hardy of the D.C Community Center Department had been advocating for a “national tree” on the grounds of the White House, writing to presidential secretary C. Bascom Slemp, “It seems that the use of the White House grounds for this Christmas tree will give the sentiment and the exercises a national character.” 8 In early December, Middlebury College President Paul D. Moody, as well as C.C. Wells of the Society for Electrical Development were present for the felling of the tree destined for illumination on the Ellipse. 9

    The Society for Electrical Development considered the tree lighting an opportunity to showcase outdoor electric lighting technology. Although Hardy suggested the tree be located on the White House grounds, the Ellipse was eventually chosen as an appropriate location. The multi-colored bulbs were a gift from the Electric League of Washington. 10

    More than 6,000 people came to view the lighting on the Ellipse on Christmas Eve and then participate in the singing of Christmas carols on the South Grounds of the White House. In addition, the Epiphany Church choir performed along with the U.S. Marine Band from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

    After the lighting of the National Christmas Tree, the choir of the First Congregational Church performed carols outside the North Portico of the White House. A program of carols was published in local Washington newspaper so that visitors could sing along.

    At 9:00 p.m., the First Congregational Church, the D.C. church that the Coolidge family attended, hosted a caroling event outside the North Portico of the White House. The Evening Star published the program of carols beforehand so that those in attendance would have the words to the songs being sung. The song selection was arranged by Dr. Jason Noble Pierce, pastor of First Congregational Church, with assistance from Mrs. Coolidge. 11

    The President began his Christmas with a half-hour walk accompanied by a Secret Service escort. The family had a quiet Christmas Day at the White House. They opened presents around a small tree in the Blue Room, set up and decorated the afternoon before, and later attended Christmas services at First Congregational Church with former president and current Chief Justice William Howard Taft. 12

    For Christmas dinner, the family enjoyed a turkey “roasted in true old New England style.” 13 That night, the Coolidges visited disabled veterans at Walter Reed Hospital for nearly three hours. Along with exchanging holiday greetings, the Coolidge family watched the historical motion picture “Abraham Lincoln” with the veterans. Originally intended to be shown at the White House, President Coolidge decided to incorporate the film into his visit to the hospital. 14

    On December 24, 1923, President Calvin Coolidge participated in the first National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on the Ellipse. Since 1923, the president’s participation in this public tree lighting has become an annual tradition.

    President Coolidge and his family helped make Christmas a truly public White House tradition. Not only did the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in time become an annual event, but the advance of mass communications in the early twentieth century largely through the radio, illustrated magazines, and newsreel coverage, ensured that the First Family’s celebration of Christmas became a vital part of our national yuletide festivities.


    Coolidge’s Tree

    President Coolidge, First Lady Grace Coolidge, and other dignitaries with the 1924 tree. (Library of Congress)

    T here’s always debate around Christmas. One topic is church’s intrusion upon state. People scan the details of the lighting of the National Christmas Tree for symbols of “Christmas” rather than “holiday.” There’s controversy over the White House Christmas card as well. President Obama’s first card, in 2009, for example, read “Season’s Greetings,” not “Merry Christmas,” a fact that so irritated Representative Henry Brown (R., S.C.) that he introduced a resolution defending the sacredness of Christmas: “I believe that sending a Christmas card without referencing a holiday and its purpose limits the Christmas celebration in favor of a more politically correct holiday.”

    Another Christmas topic, however, is the material bounty of the holiday. The Los Angeles Times, for example, recently reprinted a defensive column by Dinah Lenney, a Jewish writer and actress. Lenney, married to a non-Jew, portrays Christmas as an American force so darling and powerful it overwhelmed her family. Failing to buy wreaths, erect a tree, or leave a carrot for Rudolph forced her into the role of the Grinch. So Lenney, clearly a caring mother, bought a tree and gave her children a chance to celebrate Christmas. But she herself chose not to celebrate, to remain the “bristly, conflicted, slightly sheepish American Jew that I am.” Such arguments are usually framed as “Christmas versus the Rest.”

    The questions of Christmas and state, and of its bounty, were actually addressed by the president who inaugurated both the outdoor-tree tradition and the presidential Christmas message: Calvin Coolidge. Our 30th president, who served from 1923 to 1929, loved Christmas. But he loved it carefully. The president’s actions in regard to the holiday reflect insights that shine like the Christmas candles — but also like Hanukkah lights.

    In the autumn of 1923, the new president and other Washingtonians had a new idea: an outdoor White House Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve, Coolidge and his wife Grace walked over to the Ellipse. There a magnificent 48-foot fir awaited them, decorated with 2,500 green, red, and white bulbs donated by the Electric League. Coolidge pressed a button that lit up the tree, yielding a sort of fireworks effect that Americans love to this day.

    It is unlikely that either the president or the first lady initially saw the Christmas tree as a tree of the national government. It was to the District of Columbia Public Schools that Grace Coolidge gave permission to erect the Christmas tree in the autumn of 1923. As the planning proceeded, people referred to the tree as a “community Christmas tree.” The tree’s provenance also mattered: The fir came not from a “national” place but from a place associated with Coolidge’s home state, Vermont — the forests around Middlebury College.

    Even in that first year, some stakeholders in the tree project liked the idea of going national, marketing the tree as a “National Christmas Tree.” But someone, probably the White House, pushed back. The label given the tree the following year represented a compromise: “National Community Christmas Tree. ” In 1927 newspapers were still labeling the tree “the Washington community tree.” The element of locality abided, even through the years of the activist Franklin Roosevelt: In 1942, for example, Washington schoolchildren took the lead in decorating the tree, collecting ornaments around the region.

    What was going on? Coolidge was such a ferocious federalist that he spoke of the United States in plural. The point here was simple: The United States had no national faith, and Washington was not all-powerful. He, a Christian from Vermont, was a guest in a largely Christian place, the District of Columbia. It was important for local authorities to keep Washington out of their realm. Coolidge restrained the federal government not because he was an early presidential iteration of Ayn Rand but because he feared state would intrude upon church. Protecting churches, or states’ rights, or town government, was what low-tax, small-government politicians like him restrained government for.


    Menorah lightings

    Hanukkah came to the White House itself, in 1989, when President George H.W. Bush displayed a menorah there, a candelabrum given to him by the Synagogue Council of America.

    But Bill Clinton was the first president to actually light a menorah in the White House. In 1993, he invited a dozen schoolchildren to the Oval Office for a small ceremony. The event made headlines when 6-year-old Ilana Kattan’s ponytail dipped into the flame and a wisp of smoke was visible around her head. Clinton was reported to have gently rubbed her ponytail with his fingers.

    Menorah lightings grew in prominence during the Clinton years. Memorably, in 1998, Clinton joined Israel’s then-President Ezer Weizman in lighting a candle on the first night of Hanukkah in Jerusalem.

    But no White House Hanukkah parties ever took place under Clinton. Instead, he included Jewish leaders in a large annual “holiday party.”


    Calvin Coolidge's faith was the secret to his success

    Calvin Coolidge did all the things we’d like to see a politician do today: Coolidge cut the federal budget, cut taxes, and vetoed spending bills. He acted on principle when public-sector unions challenged the public safety. Finally, Coolidge left the presidency with a higher reputation than it had enjoyed upon his arrival.

    What enabled Coolidge to do all these difficult things, to succeed where other politicians fail, was his faith.

    Calvin Coolidge wasn’t as vocal as some presidents about his religious belief. But that faith was real, strong enough to help him surmount personal setbacks, to make unpopular decisions, and to restrain his own vanity and so govern better.

    Coolidge spent his childhood steeped in religion. The Vermonter grew up among northern Baptists, Methodists, and Congregationalists. His own ancestors constructed the simple clapboard church in their town, Plymouth Notch. His grandfather encouraged his first reading by having Coolidge read to him from the Gospel of John.

    No regular minister served Plymouth Notch, but growing up Coolidge was taught Sunday school by his grandmother. Before his mother’s death, and perhaps after, prayers sessions took place in the Coolidge home. Even food preparation had a religious flavor. Among the Coolidge recipes I found while reviewing documents at the Vermont State Archive was one for “Scripture Cake”:
    One Cup of Butter: Judges 5:25
    Three and One Half Cups of Flour: I Kings 425
    Two cups Sugar: Jeremiah 6:20…

    Coolidge attended a Baptist boarding school, followed by a stint at St. Johnsbury Academy, where he attended at least one service with the “Congos,” as he called them – Congregationalists. He matriculated at Amherst College, a school originally founded for the education of Protestant ministers. As a young lawyer in Northampton, Massachusetts, Coolidge met his future wife, Grace, a member of the Edwards Church, and followed her to services there.

    Coolidge didn’t join a church until very late, well into the presidency. But from an early age he came to lean on his faith as a support in hard times. His mother and sister both had died while he was young, and he carried a lock of his mother’s hair with him, a symbol of the afterlife and his expectation that he would join her.

    While in the White House, another tragedy befell Coolidge. His son Calvin developed a blister from playing tennis on the White House courts. The blister led to sepsis and he died within a week. The Coolidges could not understand the “ways of providence” that had taken Calvin from them. But, as the president later recalled, “my wife and I bowed to the Supreme Will and with such courage as we had went on in the discharge of our duties.”

    As president, Coolidge started the tradition of a national Christmas tree as a symbol of America’s faith. After his son’s death, Coolidge could not bear to see any living thing die. He decided that the national Christmas tree would be a living tree, tended by gardeners.

    Coolidge respected others’ faith as well. And he was acutely aware that government intervention in society, no matter how subtle, could impinge upon the spiritual forces at work there.

    Coolidge’s piety gave him an understanding of what we call natural law, the idea that some laws come not from jurists but from above. “Men do not make laws, they do but discover them,” he told fellow lawmakers in Massachusetts while he was still a young politician.

    That led Coolidge to veto numerous bills as president, representing his conviction that the souls of people, and the collective of society, fare better when the government refrains.

    Even in his tax cutting, Coolidge’s plans reflected faith. He cut taxes, he said in his 1925 inaugural, not only because tax cuts work, but also because high taxes were morally “wrong.”

    This Coolidge conception, that a surfeit of earthly laws reflects earthly arrogance, differed mightily from the theory advanced by progressives, who believed in law almost as a religion itself.

    One of the most revealing speeches Coolidge made was to Jewish leaders and community philanthropists in 1924. He applauded them for taking care of one another, a good role for any church-related community. “I want you to know that I feel you are making good citizens, that you are strengthening the Government, that you are demonstrating the supremacy of the spiritual life and helping establish the Kingdom of God on earth.”

    Coolidge could be wary of individual clergymen, concerned they too might exploit his office or fame. He pointedly refrained from raising money for his church in Washington, First Congregational. But Coolidge did see great value in churches. The Coolidges’ membership at First Congregational gave prominence to the church, which had long been associated with promoting the rights of negroes. During the Coolidge presidency the church invited the singer Marian Anderson to perform a concert, the beginning of steps that would lead to her famous performance on the Mall years later.

    In the summer of 1927, Coolidge and his wife attended a little white box of a church in Hermosa, S.D., that resembled the church back home in his boyhood Vermont. The ladies at the church noticed that Grace Coolidge knew every hymn and sang them well. During this same trip Coolidge decided not to run again.

    It was a difficult decision, because his policies were a success and because Coolidge, like any president, was getting used to that success. My own sense in looking over his life was that Coolidge’s faith – his understanding that men must always remember that there is a force greater than themselves – played a role in his willingness to turn down his party’s warm invitation to run again.

    Coolidge died in 1933. At his funeral, appropriately brief, the guests sang “Lead Kindly Light.” To Coolidge the light of faith had been a beacon all along.

    The general tendency of presidential history is to blinker out the faith of presidents. Yet when we do this our accuracy suffers. Coolidge the budgeter or tax cutter provides a useful model for today, but the thirtieth chief executive becomes more useful when we understand the role of faith in his day-to-day policies.


    Coolidge lights first national Christmas tree - Dec 24, 1923 - HISTORY.com

    TSgt Joe C.

    On this day in 1923, President Calvin Coolidge touches a button and lights up the first national Christmas tree to grace the White House grounds.

    Not only was this the first White House “community” Christmas tree, but it was the first to be decorated with electric lights–a strand of 2,500 red, white and green bulbs. The balsam fir came from Coolidge’s home state of Vermont and stood 48 feet tall. Several musical groups performed at the tree-lighting ceremony, including the Epiphany Church choir and the U.S. Marine Band. Later that evening, President Coolidge and first lady Grace were treated to carols sung by members of Washington D.C.’s First Congregational Church.

    According to the White House Historical Association, President Benjamin Harrison was the first president to set up an indoor Christmas tree for his family and visitors to enjoy in 1889. It was decorated with ornaments and candles. In 1929, first lady Lou Henry Hoover oversaw what would become an annual tradition of decorating the indoor White House tree. Since then, each first lady’s duties have included the trimming of the official White House tree.

    Coolidge’s “inauguration” of the first outdoor national Christmas tree initiated a tradition that has been repeated with every administration. In 1981, President Ronald Reagan began another custom by authorizing the first official White House ornament, copies of which were made available for purchase.


    Watch the video: Τα καλύτερα Ελληνικά u0026 Ξένα Χριστουγεννιάτικα Τραγούδια Non Stop By Darkness (August 2022).

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