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THE MUSEUM Exhibits
Nixon Family Holiday Traditions at the White House 1969 - 1973

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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.

 

The President's Message to Members of the Armed Forces, December 25, 1969. Message, Christmas Message to Members of the Armed Forces, December 25, 1969. Box 54. WHCF: SMOF: President's Personal Files. Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, CA

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The White House Christmas decorations went on display the weekend of December 12, 1969. The next day, before attending a family dinner, President Nixon viewed the decorations. In this photograph President and Mrs. Nixon and their daughter Tricia are posing in front a 19-foot concolor (white fir) Christmas tree in the Entrance Hall of the White House.
Negative #2675C-11
 

Posing in front of their "house" on the South Lawn of the White House is President Nixon's dog, an Irish Setter named King Timahoe, Tricia Nixon's Yorkie named Pasha and Julie Nixon's Poodle Vicky, December 9, 1970.
Negative #C5242-16

 

The White House press release dated December 21, 1970, describes the "Waiting for Santa" posed holiday photograph of King Timahoe, Vicky and Pasha taken on December 9, 1970.
Press release, December 21, 1970. Box 22. WHCF: SMOF: First Lady's Press Office. Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, CA.

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First Lady Pat Nixon speaking with children from the Diplomatic Corps, at a White House East Room Christmas Party given for them, December 21, 1971.
Negative #C8103-16

 

The theme for decorating inside the White House was inspired by two paintings from the 1850s that hang in the Red Room, "Nature's Bounty," and "Still Life with Fruit," both painted by German immigrant Severin Roesen. As seen in this photo of the White House Cross Hall, the columns and chandeliers are garlanded at the top with fruit, pine cones and foliage and a crèche at the far end,
December 18, 1972.
Negative #D113-02

In the East Room of the White House a fireplace mantle is decorated with Christmas trees, green garlands and poinsettias. The mirror is decorated with a wreath and gold decorations, December 14, 1973.
Negative E1984c-20
 

For more information, contact us at 714-983-9120 or Nixon@nara.gov.

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