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December 11, 2014
06:53 PM EDT
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama take part in the Hanukkah candle lighting ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Dec. 2, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Throughout our history here at the White House, Presidents and First Families have joined people from across the country to celebrate the joyous holiday season.
Take our quiz to find out how much you know about the holiday season at the White House. After, head to WhiteHouse.gov/Holidays to learn more about what's new this year.
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.
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.
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.
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.
David HudsonDecember 11, 2014
05:21 PM EDT
Earlier today, President Obama joined a meeting of his Export Council, which advises him on policies and programs that affect America's trade performance and promote export expansion.
In his remarks, the President noted the United States' economic progress over the past year, spotlighting our strong exports as one of the reasons behind our country's continued job creation:
We've seen some significant economic progress here in the United States over the last year. Our businesses have added almost 11 million jobs over the past 57 months. This year our economy has already created more jobs [than] in any year since the 1990s, with still a month to go. All told, since 2010, we've created more jobs here in the United States than Japan, Europe, and all advanced nations combined.
And one of the reasons that we've been able to create so many jobs here in the United States is because our exports have been strong. Last year our businesses sold a record $2.3 trillion of Made in America goods and services. And these exports support more than 11 million American jobs -- typically, by the way, jobs that pay higher wages.
December 11, 2014
04:26 PM EDT
A painting of an elegantly dressed woman named Lady Ada Lovelace hangs on the wall at the U.K. Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street.
She's considered to be the world's first programmer -- but most people have never heard of her.
Ada Lovelace's experience remains all too familiar: So many of the breakthrough contributions of women in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields continue to go untold, too often fading into obscurity.
Then add an untold history of your own, and make a commitment to share these stories in any way you can to help inspire more young women and men to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
Katherine VargasDecember 11, 2014
11:04 AM EDT
This week, President Obama participated in an interview with Jose Diaz-Balart from Telemundo/MSNBC and Jorge Ramos of Univision to discuss his recent executive actions to fix as much of our broken immigration system as he can while urging Congress to pass a comprehensive bill to get the job done, among several other topics. Here are some highlights from the interviews:
David HudsonDecember 10, 2014
07:02 PM EDT
"What makes America exceptional isn't just the size of our economy or our influence around the globe. [It's] the promise we make to our children; the idea that no matter who they are, what they look like, where they start, how much their parents earn, they can make it if they try. It’s the essential promise of America -- that where you start should not and will not determine how far you can go."
-- President Obama, December 10, 2014
President Obama convened the White House Summit on Early Education today, bringing together a number of policymakers, school superintendents, corporate and community leaders, and others to talk about the importance of quality early childhood education.
In addition to announcing a collective investment of more than $1 billion in the education and development of our young children, today's summit also highlighted the launch of Invest in US -- a new initiative created by the nonprofit First Five Years Fund, in partnership with private philanthropic leaders.
December 10, 2014
06:41 PM EDTThis Dayjul4In History
As we reminisce on our rich history here at the White House, this post is unique -- as we are looking back at not just one but five separate years.
Since the creation of the Nobel Peace Prize, four U.S. Presidents and one Vice President have received the award, which is presented each year on December 10.
Keep reading to find out more about the history of Nobel Peace Prizes here at the White House.
Tanya SomanaderDecember 10, 2014
04:45 PM EDT
President Obama: "Ho, ho, ho!"
First Lady Michelle Obama: "That's a pretty serious, ho, ho, ho."
Sorting toys can be a serious business, and that's why First Lady Michelle Obama brought along a special helper to Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. today. "I'm the big elf," the President declared. "I'm like Will Ferrell."
Ezra MechaberDecember 10, 2014
04:03 PM EDT
On Monday afternoon, President Obama became the first president to write a line of code.
As part of the "Hour of Code" -- an online event to promote Computer Science Education Week -- the President and Vice President joined middle-school students from New Jersey for a computer coding exercise.
President Obama spoke about the importance of strengthening STEM education, especially for girls and students underrepresented in STEM fields: "Part of what we're realizing is that we're starting too late when it comes to making sure that our young people are familiar with not just how to play a video game, but how to create a video game."
The President highlighted our country's tradition as innovators, noting that "one of the great things about America is that we invent and make stuff, not just use it."
And what did the Coder-in-Chief write for his first line of code?
Cameron BrenchleyDecember 10, 2014
04:02 PM EDT
Earlier today, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Grammy award-winning artist Shakira took to Twitter to answer your questions about the early childhood education.
Shakira, who is a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and a strong advocate for high-quality early education, joined Duncan in highlighting $1 billion in new public and private commitments that were announced as part of today’s White House Summit on Early Education.
At the Summit, President Obama reiterated his call to expand access to high-quality early childhood education to every kid in America, and announced the launch of the Invest In Us initiatitive. The new initiative challenges public and private partners, business leaders, philanthropists, advocates, elected officials, and individuals to build a better nation by expanding high-quality early childhood education.
David HudsonDecember 10, 2014
12:31 PM EDT
President Barack Obama interviews with Jeff Johnson of BET in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Dec. 5, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
In light of the unrest across the country following the recent police-involved deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and others, President Obama sat down with BET's Jeff Johnson to share his thoughts on race relations in America, and our next steps forward as a country.
Tanya SomanaderDecember 10, 2014
12:06 PM EDT
President Obama traveled to Casa Azafran in Nashville yesterday to speak with Tennesseans and answer a few questions about the recent steps he took to fix our broken immigration system.
Nashville is a city brimming with the vitality that immigrants bring to a local economy and culture. As the President said, immigrants are woven into the very fabric of who we are:
"They" are "us." They work as teachers in our schools, doctors in our hospitals, police officers in our neighborhoods. They start small businesses at a faster rate than many native-born Americans. They create jobs making this city more prosperous, and a more innovative place. And of course, they make the food better.
John PodestaDecember 09, 2014
04:48 PM EDT
When NASCAR drivers take a corner at top speed, they — and their tires — experience G-forces that are just about equivalent to what astronauts feel as they’re being launched into space.
So NASCAR knows a thing or two about tire performance and safety. And that’s why NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney joined Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and me at the White House today to talk about proper tire maintenance — and he brought along his #22 Mustang and the #18 “M&Ms” car to really drive the point home.
December 09, 2014
04:41 PM EDT
Yesterday, Vice President Joe Biden, Valerie Jarrett, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack welcomed over 100 current and former foster youth from across the country to celebrate several new announcements aimed at improving the outcomes of youth in and aging out of care. As part of this effort, the White House hosted the stars and creators of the new movie Annie to highlight the issue of foster care.
We know that in real life, we don’t have movie magic to make things better, which is why we’re working to help keep foster children safe and empowered through every challenge they face. And we also know that the experience of foster children in America ranges more broadly than could ever be captured on the silver screen. We hope yesterday evening’s event raises awareness about the issue of foster care and encourages more families to consider fostering or adopting.
The President and all of those in his Administration believe in the basic bargain at the heart of the American story – that every child should have a fair chance at success. And that, no matter who you are or where you’re from, if you’re willing to work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to make it. But we know that sometimes, by no fault of their own, some kids are dealt a more difficult hand.
December 09, 2014
03:04 PM EDT
In keeping with President and First Lady's vision to make the Obama White House as accessible as possible, a few times a year the White House opens its doors to people who engage with us on social media. And that time has come, once again! On Monday, December 15, we are inviting tweeters, instagrammers, viners, and Facebook fans from across the country to take part in the 2014 holiday festivities and learn about the White House holiday preparations at the 2014 White House Holiday Social.
Visitors selected to participate in the Holiday Social will tour the White House, which has been transformed for the holidays, and will meet with some of the people responsible for the success of this year’s holiday decorations.
So, if you want to see the White House this holiday season in person, apply now for your chance to join other White House social media followers at the White House Holiday Social. And of course, while you’re here, share your experience using #WHHolidays.
December 09, 2014
01:14 PM EDT
Today, the President honored the incredible innovation, energy, and commitment of the senior leaders of America’s federal workforce. These public servants come from all walks of life and from every corner of America to carry on the proud tradition of dedicating their careers to serving others.
Tanya SomanaderDecember 09, 2014
12:03 PM EDT
As the Colbert Report winds down to its final episode, Stephen Colbert traveled south to George Washington University last night to sit down with President Obama -- or, as Stephen prefers, the man who once sat down with Bill O'Reilly.
It was a memorable meeting of two great leaders -- one of the free world, the other of "medium cable ratings." They discussed health care reform, the President's recent actions on immigration, climate change, and the presidency vs. punditry.
Of course, the President had the final word -- or decree -- on health care:
Most young people can get covered for less than $100. How is the President going to get that message out to the kids? He could try to appeal to them directly through a speech or a press conference, but young people don’t watch real news shows like this one. They watch comedy shows, and I just don’t see the President going on one of those. They’re beneath his dignity.
Here are a few great exchanges you won't want to miss from last night's interview:
Cameron BrenchleyDecember 09, 2014
09:46 AM EDT
— Shakira (@shakira) December 10, 2014
For every dollar we invest in early childhood education, we see a rate of return of $7 or more through a reduced need for spending on other services, such as remedial education, grade repetition, and special education, as well as increased productivity and earnings for these kids as adults.
David HudsonDecember 08, 2014
01:00 PM EDT
Yesterday evening at the White House, the President and First Lady hosted a reception for this year's Kennedy Center Honorees: singer Al Green, actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks, ballerina Patricia McBride, singer-songwriter Sting, and comedienne Lily Tomlin.
The Kennedy Center Honors, now in its 37th year, recognizes "living individuals who throughout their lifetimes have made significant contributions to American culture through the performing arts."
As the President said in his remarks yesterday, "Our art is a reflection of us not just as people, but as a nation. It binds us together. Songs and dance and film express our triumphs and our faults, our strengths, our tenderness in ways that sometimes words simply cannot do."
Tanya SomanaderDecember 08, 2014
12:09 PM EDT
"My life has completely changed ... I can breathe deeply without coughing. I can walk to work without taking a break. I can play with my dogs. I can sleep through the night. I'm even working up the nerve to ride my bicycle. Only a few weeks ago, I felt like the best years of my life were long behind me. Today, I feel like I haven't begun to live."
December 08, 2014
08:31 AM EDT
Today – on the first day of 2014 Computer Science Education Week (#CSEdWeek) – President Obama is welcoming approximately 30 middle-school-aged students from Newark, NJ, and Brooklyn, NY, to roll up their sleeves, get online together, and participate in an “Hour of Code” here at the White House. These students will join millions of people around the world who are participating in similar Hour of Code events this week to get familiar with the basics of computer programming through innovative online tutorials for learners of all ages.
Recognizing the importance of connecting America’s students with tech-skills that are increasingly relevant to how we live, work, learn, play, and create, President Obama issued a call during last year’s CSEdWeek to the education community, businesses, foundations, and non-profit organizations to help support and expand access to computer science education in K-12 schools.