Holidays 2014

Holidays at the White House 2013

This year’s theme is ‘A Children’s Winter Wonderland’. It celebrates the pureness that the holidays bring, as seen through the eyes of children. The magic and joy of a Winter Wonderland through a child’s eyes transform the White House and its stately, storied rooms, reminding us all of the beauty of this holiday season and the blessings we have experienced over the past year.


Recent Holiday Content

December 3, 2014

Holiday Decorations

First Lady Michelle Obama Previews the 2014 White House Holiday Decorations.

December 4, 2014

The 2014 National Christmas Tree Lighting

On December 4, 2014, President Obama joined Americans in celebrating the holidays at the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C.

December 17, 2014

President Obama Speaks at a Hanukkah Reception

President Obama celebrated the second night of Hanukkah in the East Room of the White House.


Take the Quiz

Take our quiz to find out how much you know about the holiday season at the White House!

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How Much Do You Know about the Holidays at the White House?


From snowball fights to gingerbread houses to digital trees, the White House is a treasure trove of holiday traditions — old and new alike. Take this quiz to test your knowledge and learn a surprising thing or two about our holiday history.

1. Who was the first President to preside over the National Christmas tree lighting ceremony?

  • President George Washington in 1788
  • President Calvin Coolidge in 1923
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934
  • President Barack Obama in 2009

Yup! Back in 1923, a few school children in Washington, D.C. wrote to President Calvin Coolidge asking him if they could put a Christmas tree on the South Lawn. More than 90 years later, that simple request is now a holiday tradition. Check out this year’s ceremony to light the National Christmas Tree — “a symbol of hope and holiday spirit.”

Actually, the first National Christmas Tree was lit by President Calvin Coolidge. Back in 1923, a few school children in Washington, D.C. wrote to President Calvin Coolidge asking him if they could put a Christmas tree on the South Lawn. More than 90 years later, that simple request is now a holiday tradition. Check out this year’s ceremony to light the National Christmas Tree — “a symbol of hope and holiday spirit.”

2. True or false: A steadfast conservationist, President Teddy Roosevelt refused to allow any trees to be cut for use in the White House.

  • True
  • False

That’s right! President Teddy Roosevelt did not approve of cutting trees for Christmas decorations. But his son Archie defied the ban and smuggled in a small tree that was decorated and then hidden in a closet a sewing room in the White House.

It’s actually true! President Teddy Roosevelt was such an avowed conservationist that he prohibited cutting a single tree for Christmas decorations at the White House. However, his son Archie defied the ban and smuggled in a small tree that was decorated and then hidden in a closet in the upstairs sewing room.

3. Who helped light up the National Christmas tree for the first time in history this year?

  • The First Dogs, Bo & Sonny
  • Santa and his reindeer
  • Girls across the country, using code
  • Vice President Biden

Nailed it. Young girls from across the country joined Google in using code to give the state and territory trees a digital upgrade. Decorate your own “digi-tree” using Made w/ Code’s holiday lights program!

Nope! Neither Vice President Biden, the First Dogs, nor Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer could hold a candle to the young girls who used code for the first time in history to light up the state and territory trees. Decorate your own “digi-tree” using Made w/ Code’s holiday lights program!

4. True or false: The White House once hosted an indoor snowball fight.

  • True
  • False

Right! Snow or no-snow, President Andrew Jackson knew how to throw a party. In 1834, he threw a large party for his children and grandchildren that included games, dancing, dinner, and an indoor “snowball fight” using specially-made cotton balls for the occasion. To this day, the White House invites school groups and organizations to help decorate and participate in the holiday parties.

It’s true! Snow or no-snow, President Andrew Jackson knew how to throw a party. In 1834, he threw a large party for his children and grandchildren that included games, dancing, dinner, and an indoor “snowball fight” using specially-made cotton balls for the occasion. To this day, the White House invites school groups and organizations to help decorate and participate in the holiday parties.

5. Who was the first President to light the National Menorah?

  • President Van Buren
  • President Carter
  • President Reagan
  • President Obama

Correct! President Jimmy Carter was the first president to recognize Hanukkah, lighting the National Menorah on the first night of the Festival of Lights in 1979. Since then, each president has commemorated Hanukkah at the White House with ceremonies ranging from small presentations in the Oval Office to large parties with the First Family, but they all have shared the tradition of a unique Hanukkah Menorah. This year, the National Menorah will be lit on the night of December 16. Stay tuned for details of this year’s celebrations: wh.gov/holidays.

Actually, President Jimmy Carter was the first president to recognize Hanukkah, lighting the National Menorah on the first night of the Festival of Lights in 1979. Since then, each president has commemorated Hanukkah at the White House with ceremonies ranging from small presentations in the Oval Office to large parties with the First Family, but they all have shared the tradition of a unique Hanukkah Menorah. This year, the National Menorah will be lit on the night of December 16. Stay tuned for details of this year’s celebrations: wh.gov/holidays.

6. The official White House Gingerbread House weighs approximately how much?

  • 8 Pounds
  • About 50 Pounds
  • 199 Pounds
  • Over 300 Pounds

Correct — astounding, right? This miniature White House is actually a colossal production. Everyone from White House carpenters to plumbers to electricians lend their expertise to help make this delectable decoration possible. Located in the State Dining Room, this year’s gingerbread house – complete with a skating rink and marzipan reindeer -- contains 250 pounds of pastillage, 40 pounds of marzipan, 25 pounds of gum paste, 80 pounds of gingerbread dough, 25 pounds of sugar work, and an immeasurable amount of holiday delight. You can check it out here: wh.gov/holidays.

It’s actually more than 300 pounds! Surprised? It’s true, this miniature White House is actually a colossal production. Everyone from White House carpenters to plumbers to electricians lend their expertise to help make this delectable decoration possible. Located in the State Dining Room, this year’s gingerbread house – complete with a skating rink and marzipan reindeer -- contains 250 pounds of pastillage, 40 pounds of marzipan, 25 pounds of gum paste, 80 pounds of gingerbread dough, 25 pounds of sugar work, and an immeasurable amount of holiday delight. You can check it out here: wh.gov/holidays.

Happy Holidays!
You got questions correct.

Now that you know how presidents and Americans across the country have helped deck the halls here at the White House, check out the latest décor — including a few more holiday firsts from President Obama and the First Family. Head over to wh.gov/holidays to see how we’re trimming the house in this year’s theme: A Children’s Winter Wonderland.


Décor

This year’s White House decorations also pay tribute to our Armed Forces and their families. The East Wing of the White House features a Christmas tree adorned with gold star ornaments, honoring the heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

The Trees

This year the White House Holiday tour features 26 White House Christmas trees and a gingerbread house weighing more than 300 pounds, complete with a skating rink and marzipan reindeer! Volunteers from 34 states and the District of Columbia helped decorate the White House for the holidays and eighteen of those White House volunteers came to the White House from a military family.

The official White House Christmas tree, which stands 18 feet tall in the Blue Room, honors the courageous service of the troops, veterans, and military families, who all serve our Nation every single day. This year the theme of the White House Christmas tree is “America the Brave.” The official White House Christmas tree comes to the White House from Crystal Springs Tree Farm in Leighton, Pennsylvania, and is trimmed with ornaments decorated by military children living on U.S. military bases all over the world. Many of the ornaments hanging on the tree are cards with thank you messages written by children to the troops.

Technology

This year, innovative technologies like 3D printing are playing a role in creating a unique and interactive holiday experience at the White House.

In October, the White House announced the 3D Printed Ornament Challenge in partnership with the Smithsonian. Makers, innovators and students around the country, from New Hampshire and Texas to California and Michigan, submitted more than 300 creative, whimsical and beautiful winter-inspired designs. Twenty innovative designs were chosen as finalists and five of these designs were selected for display in the White House. Read more about the winning designs.

  • "Winter Snowflakes"

    Created by Gil Rivera of Montclair, NJ, this ornament is currently hanging in the East Room

    1 of 5
  • "Library of Congress"

    Created by Vicky Somma, Occoquan, VA, this ornament is currently hanging in the Library

    2 of 5
  • "Star of Bliss"

    Created by Roy Eid, Houston, TX, this ornament is currently hanging in the Grand Foyer

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  • "Presidents of Christmas Past and Present"

    Created by Antar Gamble Hall, New York, NY, this ornament is currently hanging in the State Dining Room

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  • "Winter Wonderland of Innovation"

    Created by David Moore and Brandy Badami, Livonia, MI, this ornament is currently hanging in the Red Room

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For the first time ever, the Book Sellers Room will feature an interactive digital snowscape. The interactive installation captures visitors’ movements, showing them abstractly projected onto the wall as a flurry of snowflakes in a serene winter wonderland scene. The piece aims to connect new technology directly with the White House as a historical landmark and home, while encouraging movement and play.


Décor, Recipes & Crafts You Can Make at Home

Download the Bo Wrapping Paper

Download Your Own Bo & Sunny Gift Tags

Bake & Share Gingerbread Cookies from the White House Pastry Kitchen

Make Your Own Bo and Sunny Ornaments

This year the White House has created twelve very special ornaments featuring Bo and Sunny preparing for the holidays. These ornaments are hung throughout the East Wing tour, with elemental clues in the tour book to help children find them. You can download these adorable designs to create your own Bo and Sunny ornaments for your home.

Bo-Tales GiftBoxCaroling
Bo and Sunny StockingsMaking CookiesHoliday DreamingSnow Angels
SnowflakesNutcrackerSnowbootsReading by the Fire

More to come!


Get a Tour

Throughout the holiday season, holiday tours of the White House are available on a limited basis. Check out WhiteHouse.gov/about/tours-and-events for more information.


Engage With Us

Throughout the holiday season we will feature guests who share their experience here at the White House using the hashtag #WHHolidays.

Can’t make it to the White House for the holidays? Be sure to check out all of our official accounts as we post behind-the-scenes glimpses of the #WHHolidays.

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Photos: Holidays at the White House Through the Years

Since President Obama took office the Obama family has celebrated many White House holidays, with themes that have included ‘Gather Around’, ‘Joy to All’, ‘Shine, Give, Share’, and ‘Simple Gifts’. All of the White House holidays celebrated by the Obama family have honored our many blessings as Americans.

  • Obama
  • G. W. Bush
  • Clinton
  • Bush
  • Reagan
  • Carter
  • Ford
  • Nixon
  • Johnson
  • Kennedy
  • First Lady Michelle Obama poses with the 2014 White House Christmas ornament

    First Lady Michelle Obama poses with the 2014 White House Christmas ornament, Dec. 3, 2014. (Official WH Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

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  • First Lady Michelle Obama, with daughters Sasha and Malia, and the family dog Bo, receives the official White House Christmas tree

    The First Lady with daughters, and Bo, receive the official White House Christmas tree, Nov. 23, 2012.

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  • First Family Reacts To Tree Lighting

    President Obama and his family react as they push the button to light the National Christmas Tree during a ceremony on the Ellipse, Dec. 9, 2010.

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  • First Lady Delivers Toys Donated To Toys For Tots

    The First Lady delivers toys donated by the WH Executive Office staff to the Marine Corps Base Quantico Toys for Tots Campaign, Dec. 16, 2009.

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  • The President And First Lady Greet The Strings For Joy

    President Obama and the First Lady greet members of the Strings For Joy ensemble during a holiday party at the White House, Dec. 14, 2009.

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  • The President And First Lady In Hanukkah Candle Ceremony

    President Obama and the First Lady take part in the Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony in the East Room, Dec. 2, 2010.

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  • Young Visitor Tastes Her Decorated Cookie

    The First Lady and WH Pastry Chef Bill Yosses laugh as a young visitor tastes her decorated cookie during a holiday craft demonstration, Dec. 1, 2010.

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  • Assistant Pastry Chef Builds Gingerbread House

    White House Assistant Pastry Chef Susie Morrison constructs the White House gingerbread house in the China Room of the White House, Nov. 29, 2010.

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  • Christmas Bo 2010 decor

    Bo, the Obama family dog, sits by a larger-than-life holiday decoration of himself in the East Garden Room of the White House, Nov. 30, 2010.

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  • Christmas First Family: Obamas 2010 in front of Tree

    President Obama and the First Lady pose in front of the Official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room, Dec. 5, 2010.

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  • Christmas First Family: Obama 2010

    President Obama and the First Lady descend the Grand Staircase to a holiday reception on the State Floor, Dec. 10, 2010.

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  • Christmas First Family: Obama coming downstairs 2009

    President Obama and the First Lady descend the Grand Staircase of White House to attend a holiday party, Dec. 13, 2009.

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  • Christmas First Family- Obamas Hannukah

    President Obama and the First Lady host a Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 16, 2009.

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  • Christmas First Family: Obama 2009 tree

    President Obama and the First Lady pose for a formal portrait in front of the official White House Christmas Tree in the Blue Room, Dec. 6, 2009.

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The Obama Holidays

With themes like, "Joy to All", "Shine, Give, Share" and "Simple Gifts", the holiday customs celebrated by the Obama family in the White House have centered around reflecting on our many blessings as Americans, rejoicing in the pleasure of spending time with family and friends, and renewing commitments to one another and to the causes that we believe in. One of the First Lady's most cherished traditions are the trees that honor the service of our armed forces, which have pride of place in the East Landing and the Blue Room each year. And visitors during the holiday season have been enchanted by the representations of the First Dog, Bo Obama, who has been recreated using pipe cleaners, trash bags, buttons, pompoms and even chocolate.

The White House would like to thank the White House Historical Association, the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, the Gerald R. Ford Library, the Rockefeller Folk Art Museum at Colonial Williamsburg, the DC Public Library, the Jimmy Carter Library, the Ronald Reagan Library, the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, George W. Bush Presidential Library and Coleen Christian Burke, author of "Christmas with the First Ladies" for photographs and research support.

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