Thursday, December 24, 2015


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 1807


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Ninety-two years ago today,  December 24, 1923, President Calvin Coolidge officially lit the First National Christmas Tree here in the Nation's Capital.  

By simply pushing a button, President Coolidge turned on 2500 red, white and green bulbs on the balsam fir brought from his home state of Vermont.  The tree was donated by Paul Moody, president of Middlebury College.

The President was accompanied by First Lady Grace Coolidge who approved the location of the Christmas tree.  Music for the ceremony was provided by the United States Marine Band, and the Epiphany Church and Congregational Church choirs.  3000 children attended the ceremony.

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree has been a tradition at the White House since 1923.  Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to give a speech at the lighting ceremony.

The original idea for the tree came from Frederick Morris Feiker, an engineer and editor, who saw it as a way to encourage the purchase of electric Christmas lights and the use of more electricity.

President John F. Kennedy was present at the tree lighting ceremony only once during his tenure.  In December 1961, his father suffered a stroke, so Vice-President Johnson substituted.

JFK lit the National Christmas Tree on December 17, 1962.

President Kennedy said:

"With the lighting of this tree, which is an old ceremony in Washington and one which has been among the most important of a good many Presidents...we initiate....the Christmas season."

At the end of 30 days of national mourning for the passing of President Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson lit the tree on December 22, 1963.

The 1st National Christmas Tree
Washington, D.C. (1923)
 National Park Service Photo


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50)  Not to be confused with the National Christmas Tree located between the White House and the Washington Monument, there is a Capitol Christmas Tree located on the grounds of the United States Capitol Building here in Washington.

The 2015 version comes from the Chugach National Forest in Alaska. The tradition for the tree dates back to 1964 when Speaker of the House John W. McCormack had a live Christmas Tree planted on the Capitol grounds.


"The Capitol Christmas Tree,"

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
Washington, D.C.
Photo by Jennifer White (2015)