White House Christmas 2017
White House Christmas decorations 2017 Twitter

The US First Lady Melania Trump has started the First Family's Christmas celebration in the White House on Monday, Nov.27, which will feature President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1866 edition of "A Christmas Carol" where Christmas stories will be read out to loved ones.

"The President, Barron, and I are very excited for our first Christmas in the White House," said US First Lady Melania Trump. "As with many families across the country, holiday traditions are very important to us."

The Christmas Pageant of Peace, a major event held annually on the Ellipse since 1954, includes the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. This celebration respects the holiday worship of all faiths and features the appearance of the first family to light the tree and host live musical and dance performances.

The origin of grand Christmas celebrations

Christmas Cheer: the Cleveland family tree
The Cleveland Family tree decorated with red, white and blue electric light bulbs, delighted the president's young daughters. It was placed in the second floor Oval Room of the White House just three years after the installation of electricity. 1894. whitehousehistory.org

Traceable to 1800, when President Adams held the first-ever Christmas celebration at the White House for his four-year-old granddaughter Suzannah, the actual elaborate children's Christmas party was celebrated in 1834 by President Andrew Jackson's "frolic" for the children of his household, with arrangements for games, dancing, a grand dinner, an indoor "snowball fight" with specially made cotton balls.

The first Christmas tree in the White House was placed in the second floor Yellow Oval Room in 1889 when Benjamin Harrison was the President and it was decorated with candles and toys for the Harrison grandchildren. In 1894, the tradition held under the Cleveland family was decorated with the first electric lights, and the Cleveland family tree was decorated with red, white and blue electric light bulbs, to the delight of the president's young daughters. It was placed in the second floor Oval Room of the White House in 1894.

In 1903, President and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt hosted a "carnival" during the Christmas season for 500 children including dinner, dancing, musical entertainment, souvenirs, and a special treat in the form of ice cream formed in the shape of Santa. Though President Roosevelt, an avowed conservationist, did not allow cutting trees for Christmas, his son Archie defied the ban and smuggled in a small tree that was decorated and hidden.

A Coolidge Christmas

President Coolidge and First Lady Grace Coolidge
the 1923 National Christmas tree lighting and the public celebration by President Coolidge whitehousehistory.org

In 1909, the Taft children placed the first tree on the State floor in the Blue Room, a tradition that was continued by the Wilsons. President Calvin Coolidge was the first President to preside over the National Christmas tree lighting ceremony on the Ellipse in 1923.

First Lady Lou Henry Hoover established the custom of decorating an official tree in the White House in 1929. Since that time, the honor of trimming the Christmas tree on the state floor has belonged to our first ladies. The tree stands in the Oval Blue Room, an elegant space honored as the center of holiday splendor.

Kennedy's Christmas

Christmas themes: Jacqueline Kennedy refines the season
In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree. whitehousehistory.org

In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree. She decorated a tree placed in the oval Blue Room with ornamental toys, birds and angels modeled after Petr Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" ballet.

Mrs. Kennedy reused these ornaments in 1962 for her children's theme tree. Set up in the North Entrance, this festive tree also featured brightly wrapped packages, candy canes, gingerbread cookies and straw ornaments made by disabled or senior citizen craftspeople throughout the United States.

The American Flowers Tree

White House Christmas
The 1969 "American Flower Tree" stood in the North Entrance. Gold foil angels joined the trimmings in 1971. Mrs. Nixon took her 1972 Christmas theme from two White House collection paintings by Severin Roesen: Still Life with Fruit and Nature's Bounty. The tree featured 3,000 pastel satin finish balls, the state flower balls and 150 gold Federal stars. A 1973 "gold" theme tree honored James Monroe, who bought gilded tableware for the White House in 1817. Gold bead strings and balls enhanced its natural beauty. whitehousehistory.org

For the American Flowers Tree in 1969, First Lady Patricia Nixon arranged for disabled workers in Florida to make velvet and satin balls featuring each states official flower.

The record for the number of trees in the White House was held for many years by the Eisenhower administration when 26 trees filled every floor of the house. That mark has been eclipsed on several occasions in recent times, including the Clinton administration's 36 trees in the 1997 theme of "Santa's Workshop," and the 2008 White House Christmas decorations of the Bush administration that included 27 trees as part of a theme of "A Red, White and Blue Christmas."

Franklin D. Roosevelt always read Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol to his family on Christmas Eve.

Since 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has held a competition for the White House Blue Room tree.

Bush's Christmas Bush

White House Christmas
President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush with the Christmas tree whitehousehistory.org

First Lady Laura Bush varied the decorations, including the themes of "All Creatures Grand and Small in 2002" highlighting her love of animals and the importance of pets to White House history and a patriotic "A Red, White and Blue Christmas" in 2008.

Simple Gift of the Obamas

White House Christmas
In 2010, the White House celebrated "Simple Gifts." The Blue Room Christmas tree was themed, "Gift of the American Spirit," and it featured prize ribbons from state and county fairs from each state and territory. First Lady Michelle Obama also added a "Military Appreciation Tree" to the White House in 2010. whitehousehistory.org

The theme had been inspired by letters from Americans that began arriving after September 11th suggesting the White House have a red, white and blue Christmas. First Lady Michelle Obama announced the 2010 White House Christmas theme of "Simple Gifts" and she explained, "The greatest blessings of all are the ones that don't cost a thing: the time that we spend with our loved ones, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans and the joy we feel from reaching out to those in need."