White House holiday lore: remembering Christmases past

First lady Michelle Obama hugs a child during a holiday celebration at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, to display the holiday decorations for the first time this season. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Jacquelyn Martin / AP
U.S. first lady Michelle Obama reacts as two year old Ashtyn Gardner from Mobile, Alabama, trips over another child's walker after meeting Obama's new dog Sunny at the unveiling of the decorations at the White House in Washington, December 4, 2013. Jason Reed / Reuters
Michelle Obama premieres White House holiday decorations 1:44

By Robin Skolnick, Producer, NBC News

On Wednesday, Michelle Obama unveiled the White House holiday decorations, a longtime tradition among First Ladies.

Sharing Christmas with the public began with Abigail and John Adams in 1800. The White House wasn't yet fully constructed so there were no decorations, but on Christmas Day, the Adams’ held a small reception for members of Congress who were in the Capitol for Christmas. They used a room with bright red crimson furniture that lent a festive air. 

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy was the first to create a theme for each Christmas tree in the Blue Room. One year, it was the “Nutcracker,” reflecting her interest in ballet.

Watch the video below to see images of holidays past at the White House. 

First Ladies show White House Christmas decorations 1:55

Some other fun facts about holiday season at the White House: 

  • It was Benjamin Harrison, the nation's 23rd President, who brought the first Christmas tree into the White House.
  • Theodore Roosevelt was against the idea of a Christmas tree until his children smuggled one in to the White House and the chief forester convinced him it was OK to cut down trees.
  • First Lady Florence Harding wanted to put candles in each White House window, but when fire insurance officials found out, they flooded her with telegrams saying if she did this in the nation’s house, then Christmas Day 1921 would be a national disaster because draperies all over the country would catch fire.
  • And President Roosevelt had a tradition of reading “A Christmas Carol” to friends in the White House while First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was at the local mission giving out turkeys and gifts.