Thanks to Education World for use of my Mrs. Waffenschmidt illustration.

Thanks to Education World for use of my Mrs. Waffenschmidt illustration.
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Monday, November 23, 2015

Holidays at the White House(Factoids)

 Note: Click here for a free download, great Interactive Notebook Activity!

Holiday Traditions at the White House!
An Interactive Notebook Activity
Gail Skroback Hennessey

• In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge began the custom of a National Christmas Tree.  It had 2500 electric lights!

• First lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the custom of having a theme for the official White House Christmas tree.

Environmentalist President Theodore Roosevelt didn’t approve of cutting a tree down for the Christmas holidays. Because of this, he banned having a Christmas tree in the White House. However, Archie, his son, cut a small tree down and hid it in the closet in the swing room. He also decorated it.

• The first president to have electric lights on the family Christmas tree was President Grover Cleveland. The year was 1894.

• President Benjamin Harrison had one of the first White House Christmas trees. It was lit with candles. The year was 1889.

• Did you know that George Washington paid 18 schillings(a lot of money at the time) for someone to bring a camel to  Mt. Vernon for the Christmas holidays? Ok, Mt. Vernon isn’t the White House but I liked this fact. Interestingly, the tradition of having a camel come to Mt. Vernon during the holidays continues to this day!

• In 1834, President Andrew Jackson’s children had fun at the holidays including having snowball fights in the White House…with snowballs made from cotton.

Traditionally, the official White House Christmas tree, is the one placed in the White House’s Blue Room. The tradition of an official tree at the White house began with First Lady Lou Henry Hoover(1929)
In 1997, there were thirty-six trees decorated for the holidays, and in 2012, there were 54 decorated trees!

• President Franklin D. Roosevelt  always read Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” to his family on Christmas Eve.

• The holiday tradition of a gingerbread house, in the White House, began with First Lady Patricia Nixon, in 1969.  Did you know that the White House gingerbread house is made from about 150 pounds of gingerbread dough? More than 250 pounds of white chocolate are used for decorating.

  • Hanukkah is often celebrated around this time of year. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter became the first president to honor the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, by lighting a National Menorah.  The tradition continues each year.  In 1993, President Bill Clinton lighted the first menorah in the White House.  President George H.W. Bush hosted the first White House Hanukkah Party in 2001. 

  • President Benjamin Harrison dressed up as Santa Claus for his grandchildren!


If you had to create a theme for the official White House Christmas tree, what would you select and why. Draw and picture of your tree.

• Which do you think is more environmentally friendly, a REAL or ARTIFICIAL tree? Give 2 reasons for your opinion.

Teacher Page:
Extension Activities:
1. The holiday season is a time of giving. Encourage students to “pay it forward”, doing an act of kindness for someone else.
3. Illustrate one of the facts learned.
4. Teachers may wish to read this article to share with students on which type of tree is MORE environmentally friendly:
6. Words such as abuzz, flummox, the creeps,round the clock and whiz-bang are credited with Dickens. Other words that Dickens helped to popularize include, kibosh, butter-fingers,boredom,messiness,squashed,bah humbug,and tousled.  Have students create creative sentences using several of these words.

• Check out my web quest on Charles Dickens! A Christmas Carol is probably the most popular holiday story.Have your students learn about Charles Dickens,one of the most famous writers of all times! 8 informative web questions. Additional activities/links,too. It is said Dickens used an amazing 4.6 million different words in his writing! Skills include:reading for information and using research/computer skills.

• Check out my TpT Store for web quests and Reader’s Theater Scripts:
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