Each holiday season the First Lady leads the White House staff in decorating the mansion. Through the media, and now also the Internet and social media, the nation learns about the first families' favorite holiday traditions and foods. One of the most enduring traditions is the lighting of the National Christmas Tree began in 1923 by First Lady Grace Coolidge. During President Nixon's administration, First Lady Pat Nixon supervised and led the holiday decorating at the White House with enthusiasm, incorporating into the schedule the Pageant of Peace and lighting of the National Christmas Tree.
On December 12, 1971, First Lady Pat Nixon spoke to Empire Magazine's Frances Spatz Leighton about the Nixon family's Christmas traditions. She revealed how her husband, President Nixon, would sit at the piano and play Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer for friends and family. What mattered most to Mrs. Nixon was to reach out to the American public during the season as she sentimentally recalled the Nixons time during World War II when she was separated from her husband. She went on to say that "... ever since then, it has been a family tradition to reach out to other people who might be alone at any holiday season."
Initiated by First Lady Florence Harding, Mrs. Nixon re-instituted the tradition of installing wreaths and candles at the White House windows facing Pennsylvania Avenue. She had red, blue and gold balls hang from the chandeliers to reflect the candle lights illuminating the halls. She instituted Candle Light Tours during the holidays for staff and families who came to visit the White House. President Nixon was known to visit homes for the elderly and Julie and Tricia visited children's hospitals leaving gifts. Mrs. Nixon hosted holiday parties for the children of the Diplomatic Corps, and she also invited the elderly and the military to have Thanksgiving at the White House. Also, she delighted in having gingerbread houses placed on the mansion's mantles for people to enjoy during the Candle Light Tours. This exhibition follows the Nixon Family's festive spirit during the holidays from 1969 to 1973.