Glittering photos show how the White House has celebrated Christmas through the years

Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksFirst lady Melania Trump walks past the 2019 White House Christmas decorations.
  • December means homes across America are decking the halls, and the nation’s most famous address is no exception.
  • The White House has been decorated every December since John and Abigail Adams held the first White House Christmas party in 1800.
  • The decorations have only gotten more elaborate with time. These photos show how White House Christmases of years past compare to today.
  • Visit for more stories.

It’s the most beautiful time of the year at the White House.

The West Wing, East Wing, and every room in-between are decked out in elaborate decorations to celebrate the holidays.

On November 23, first lady Melania welcomed the official,18 1/2-foot tall White House Christmas tree as it arrived from West Virginia. As is tradition, the decorations at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. were revealed on November 30, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Here’s a look back at presidential Christmas celebrations, going all the way back to the 1800s.

The White House halls have been decked for the holidays every December since John and Abigail Adams held the first White House Christmas party in 1800.

Library of CongressInstalling the wreath at the White House entrance, 1937


Every president has brought their own traditions into the White House. Grover Cleveland, for example, lit up the first Christmas tree inside the White House to the delight of his young daughters.

White House Historical AssociationThe Cleveland Family tree in the second floor Oval Room of the White House.


Calvin Coolidge was the first president to host a public Christmas celebration at the White House, with the first National Christmas Tree lighting in 1923.

Library of Congress


The tree lighting ceremony and the president’s participation has been a yearly tradition since then.

Library of CongressThe 1929 National Christmas Tree.


Glowing trees lit up a side entrance to the White House in 1931.

AP Photo

Franklin Roosevelt spent ten consecutive Christmas holidays in the White House and emphasised the importance of family during the holiday season.

Library of CongressThe tree in the East Room during the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1936


FDR invited four generations of family into the White House for Christmas. His children and grandchildren enjoyed spending Christmas Eve in the presidential residence to partake in two of Roosevelt’s favourite holiday traditions: Hanging stockings and reading, “A Christmas Carol.”

APFDR with two of his grandchildren on Christmas Day, 1939.


Children joined Roosevelt at the White House to ring in Christmas 1940 with Christmas carols.

Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

President Harry Truman welcomed some unusual guests to the White House for December 1948 when he was gifted turkeys for his Christmas dinner.

William J. Smith/APPresident Truman inspects turkeys gifted to him from the Poultry and Egg National Board and the National Turkey Federation.

Here, President Dwight Eisenhower and first lady Mamie Eisenhower pose with their family in 1958 on the Christmas tree-lighted North Portico of the White House.

AP Photo/Bill Allen, File

Eisenhower’s first family also posed for a Christmas Eve picture in front of a tinsel-covered tree.

Ed Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

First lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of themed White House decorations with Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” taking over the Blue Room in 1961. Here, first daughter Caroline admires the tree before a party for employees.

Henry Burroughs, File via AP

In 1962, the White House Christmas tree was decorated with ornaments inspired by children, including candy canes and gingerbread cookies.

Darren McCollester/Getty


Despite Jackie’s decorating efforts, the Kennedy family chose to celebrate Christmas Day in Palm Beach.

John F. Kennedy Library

Source: JFK Library

A banner with a holiday sentiment was hung for the annual Christmas Pageant of Peace on the Ellipse, in front of the White House, in 1963. Flags were ordered to fly half-mast through December, mourning the November death of President Kennedy.

Henry Burroughs/AP

The Johnson family included a five-foot red, green, and gold piñata in the main hall.

via Getty Images

In 1967, President Johnson, Lady Bird, and Yuki, the White House dog, spent the holiday beside that year’s Christmas tree, a Norway spruce.

AP Photo/File

Here, the Johnson family poses in front of a Christmas tree in the Yellow Oval Room.

LBJ Library

Source: LBJ Library

Christmas in the Nixon White House was a lively affair. First Lady Pat Nixon told Empire Magazine their holiday traditions included the president playing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” on the piano for friends and family.

WikimediaFirst Lady Pat Nixon greets visitors to the White House, 1969

Source: Nixon Library

Another Nixon tradition was to decorate their Christmas trees with decorations made by disabled workers. The 1969 tree, dubbed the “American Flower Tree,” was decorated with velvet and satin ornaments featuring each state’s flower.

White House Historical Association


Gerald Ford brought two dates to the White House Christmas ball in 1975: his wife Betty and his daughter Susan.

Library of CongressPresident Gerald Ford, with wife Betty and daughter Susan, 1975


First Lady Betty Ford presented the official White House Christmas tree in 1976. At that year’s lighting, President Ford said that as a former National Parks ranger he was proud to have real trees throughout the White House.

AP Photo/CT

Source: National Parks Service

Many presidents have included their children and grandchildren in public White House traditions while in office. Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy, helped him light his first National Christmas Tree in 1977.


Source: AP

The Reagans really got into the holiday spirit when they lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Ronald Reagan dressed up as Santa Claus for a Christmas Eve party in 1983 …

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

Source: Ronald Reagan Presidential Library

… and First Lady Nancy Reagan sat on a different Santa’s lap.

WikimediaNancy Regan sitting on Mr. T’s lap in 1983.

Source: ABC News

In 1984, then-second lady Barbara Bush helped place the star on top of the national Christmas tree on the Ellipse.

Ron Edwards/AP

The Reagans also commissioned artists to paint scenes from inside the Executive Mansion during the holiday season for their annual Christmas card. Many presidents, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and both George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, have since followed suit.


Source: Front Gate

The Reagan White House incorporated pop culture into their playful decorations. Here, the first lady glances toward ALF during a children’s Christmas party at the White House.

AP Photo

Christmas during the first Bush administration was a family affair. Here, George H.W. Bush shows his grandchildren the Oval Office Christmas tree in 1991.

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Source: CBS News

Bush’s grandchildren were treated to a story with the president when they spent Christmas Eve at the White House in 1991.

Susan Biddle/Keystone/CNP/Getty Images

George Bush Sr. celebrated all four of his Christmases as president at Camp David, plus eight more holidays while his son was president.


Source: Washington Times

First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton adorned the 1993 Christmas tree with what she described as both “elegant” and “funky” ornaments.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

Source: The Los Angeles Times

The Clinton White House had plenty of edible decorations each year. Over the course of several years, the Clinton’s enjoyed gingerbread house versions of the Washington Monument, Mount Vernon, and even a replica of Hillary’s childhood home.



The Bush’s “Red, White and Blue Christmas” theme was inspired by letters the president and first lady received after September 11th.



George W. and Laura Bush celebrated a patriotic-themed Christmas in 2008 to commemorate their final Christmas in the White House and the election year.

Getty Images


The Obamas celebrated friends, family, and the freedoms enjoyed by Americans with their “simple gifts” White House theme.

AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Barack Obama got really into the National Christmas Tree lighting in 2014. The president joined celebrities and Santa Claus on stage for a festive dance.

REUTERS/Yuri GripasU.S. President Barack Obama dances with participants during the 92nd annual National Christmas Tree Lighting, December 4, 2014.

Source: ABC News

For the Obamas’ last year in the White House, larger-than-life replicas of their dogs Bo and Sunny added a playful and personal touch to the decorations.

Andrew Harnik/APReplicas of Bo and Sunny, made of more than 25,000 yarn pom-poms, are displayed in the East Wing as part of the 2016 holiday decor at the White House.

The first Christmas of the Trump White House celebrated the theme “Time-Honoured Traditions,” for which first lady Melania welcomed children for wreath-making.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

The official 2018 Christmas theme in the Trump White House was “American Treasures,” meant to honour the unique heritage of the country.

AP Photo/Carolyn KasterThe 18-foot-tall official White House Christmas tree, draped in over 500 feet of blue velvet ribbon embroidered in gold with each state and territory, is seen in the Blue Room on Nov. 26, 2018.

Source: Business Insider

Last year’s decorations included a number of eye-catching pieces, including 40 crimson topiaries.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Source: Business Insider

According to the White House, more than 100 open houses and many receptions will happen through the month of December, and more than 30,000 visitors will see the decorations in person during public tours.

Leah Millis/ReutersThe President’s Own Marine Band plays during the 2018 Christmas Press Preview at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 26, 2018.

Source: Business Insider

The first lady kept things more traditional for the 2019 decorations with the theme of “The Spirit of America.”

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesChristmas decorations are on display in the Grand Foyer at the White House December 2, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Source: Business Insider

The annual gingerbread house — clocking in at more than 300 lbs — was flanked by American monuments like the St. Louis arch and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks

Source: Business Insider

Playful details included Scrabble tiles spelling out words for Melania’s “Be Best” anti-bullying campaign and these mini trees made out of playing cards.

Alex Brandon/APThe Red Room is decorated with games, including a tree made of White House playing cards during the 2019 Christmas preview at the White House, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, in Washington.

Source: Business Insider

The East Colonnade glittered with clear panels depicting a timeline of American architecture and famous landmarks.

Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesThe East Colonnade is decorated for Christmas at the White House December 2, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Source: Business Insider

In 2020, the White House went with the theme “America The Beautiful,” offering a “tribute to the majesty of our great Nation.”

Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksThe Cross Hall of the White House is decorated for the Christmas season.

Source: The White House

Small details throughout the latest decorations honour major themes like 100 years of the 19th amendment and wildlife in the US as part of the Trump’s last Christmas in the White House.

Official White House Photo by Andrea HanksArtwork submitted by children for First Lady Melania Trump’s ‘Building the Movement Exhibit: America’s Youth Celebrate 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage” decorates the White House Library.

Source: The White House

Handmade ornaments in the Red Room honoured “first responders and frontline workers” amid the coronavirus pandemic who “serve their communities with a spirit of generosity,” the White House said.

Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesA Christmas tree and decorations are on display in the Red Room of the White House.

Source: The White House

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