How Jackie Kennedy Began the White House Christmas Tradition

this photograph by george f mobley shows president john f kennedy and first lady jacqueline kennedy attending the white house staff christmas reception the reception took place on december 12, 1962 in the entrance hall of the white house this would be their last christmas celebration in the white house

George F. Mobley One of the lots of duties appointed to the First Girl is decorating theWhite Home for the vacations each year. It will come as little surprise to learn that Jackie Kennedy is the creator of this joyful custom. Although other administrations, like the Eisenhowers, installed Christmas decoration in previous years, it was Jackie who developed a style in 1961, choosing Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and setting up designs that were elegant, but likewise attracted everybody. The next year, she chose a kids’s themed tree using bright packages, sweet cakes, gingerbread, and other ornaments made by senior or disabled craftspeople across the U.S.

Jackie also began the practice of putting the primary White House tree in the Blue Space– with the chandelier eliminated it can accommodate a massive 18-foot tree. While some of her concepts have remained over the decades, other administrations have added their own twists. “In 1975, among the volunteer designers made a Christmas tree out of cranberries for the red space,” Stewart McLaurin, President of the White Home Historic Association stated. “Every year since there has actually been a cranberry Christmas tree in the Red Room.” McLaurin mentioned other customs, such as the first gingerbread house, originally made in 1969 by a German pastry chef. During the Carter administration, chef Roland Mesnier developed the inaugural gingerbread White House, which is now a staple each year. In later years, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa events were contributed to the mix.

“All the designs enter into the White House collection, so they can be reused in other methods,” says McLaurin. According to him, the First Girl begins early each year to recognize a theme with a team of designers. They then go out and see what designs can be reused, which ones require to be included, and fulfill occasionally throughout the year. Then, early in the morning on the Friday after Thanksgiving, 100 volunteers (who go through an application procedure) descend on the White Home to embellish according to the First Woman’s strategy. The efforts pay off as the White Home is changed into a magical place for people to celebrate the end of the year.

Listed below, a few photos of Jackie’s Christmas decor and other vacation customs.

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President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, 1961

Children’s Christmas, 1962

This picture reveals the Christmas tree in the entryway hall, as the White Home was being restored under Jackie’s careful research study of American architecture.

Kennedy Family at Christmas

Jackie and John with her sister Lee and her partner Stanislaw Radziwill and their kids at Christmas.

Kennedy Christmas Card

Here, a picture of the 1961 Kennedy Christmas card, signed: “With our gratitude and finest wishes for a happy Christmas.”

First Gingerbread Home

First Girl Pat Nixon and her daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower admire the very first gingerbread house in the White House, based on Hansel and Gretel fairy tale.

White House Gingerbread

Chef Roland Mesnier produced the first White House in gingerbread. He flaunts among his creations here with Laura Bush.

Red Space with Cranberry Trees

Michelle Obama‘s version of the Red Room’s cranberry tree decoration in 2010.

East Space Creche

In 1967 an Italian creche (nativity scene) was given to Woman Bird Johnson and it is still put on display screen each year (revealed here in 2019).

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