The holiday season is still a time when a lot of us write more than we do any other time of year. The tradition of sending out Christmas cards remains alive and well, and don’t we know it when our fingers get tired and cramped after all of that sustained writing.
Of course, I will tell you that you can have a comfortable and pleasant experience when you address the envelopes and write all those notes in the cards by using a scientifically-designed ergonomic pen!
I thought this year it would be fun to visit the history of the tradition of the White House Christmas cards – the ones that the President of the United States sends out. Here are some interesting tidbits:
- Historians don’t agree on who the first president was to send out official Christmas cards, but most feel the tradition as we now know it started with President Herbert Hoover in the early 1930s, who sent official cards to his staff. The cards sent out by Hoover consisted of photographs of his family, and included a personal hand-written note.
- President Franklin Roosevelt developed the more standardized Christmas card images that are familiar today – scenic buildings such as red barns and covered bridges nestled on white snow amidst green fir trees.
- President Eisenhower was an accomplished artist, and actually painted the prints (see top photo) for six of the eight Christmas cards sent out during his two terms in office. Eisenhower is also credited as being the first President to send out a mass mailing of the official White House Christmas card. His 1100 cards included ones sent not only to his staff, but to his Cabinet, members of Congress, U.S. ambassadors, and foreign heads of state.
- Coming at a tragic time following President Kennedy’s assignation in November 1963, the White House Christmas card sent out that December by President Lyndon Johnson was starkly white except for a thin red border at the bottom. The card contained no additional color and no holiday symbol.
- President Obama will send out over a million White House Christmas cards in 2013. FDOUS (First Dog of the United States), Bo, is the perennial star of Obama’s official Christmas cards. In 2012 the image was a painting by artist Lareesa Kabel of Bo romping in the snow in front of the White House.
- The card was printed with the signatures of each member of the Obama family, including Bo. President Obama’s 2013 card is reported to be a pop-up card showing the White House and featuring Bo with the new presidential puppy, Sunny.
And not to worry – the tax payers do not pay for the White House Christmas card. Typically the cost is covered by the National Committee of the President’s party. In President Obama’s case the Democratic National Committee picks up the tab.