Dating all the way back to the 19th century, presidents and their families have held onto Christmas traditions, some of which hold up even to today in a time when the White House is more representative of secular society than the religions of our Christian neighbors.

The first White House Christmas party was held in December 1800.

President John Adams and his wife invited all the children of “official” Washington to the party, as the children of lawmakers ran about the White House and played with their 4-year-old granddaughter.

The first Christmas Tree

Source: The White House Historical Association

Source: The White House Historical Association

President Grover Cleveland had his White House family tree decorated with red, white and blue Christmas lights. That was in 1894, just three years after the capitol got electricity.

The president at the turn of the century, Theodore Roosevelt, was as joyous a man that ever filled the White House. Christmas was something he is said to have looked forward to, and according to official White House history, he invited 500 children to town for a “carnival” that included “dinner, dancing, musical entertainment, souvenirs, and a special treat in the form of ice cream formed in the shape of Santa and other Christmas novelties.”

Source: Library of Congress

Roosevelt welcomes a friend to Christmas in Washington. Source: Library of Congress

White House Christmas traditions in the 20th century

A new tradition was born in 1923, when President Calvin Coolidge held court over the National Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Its commemorative tradition continues to this day, and celebrates the diversity of religion known to America while allowing Washington to play host to live music and winter entertainment.

1923 Christmas Tree

The first National Christmas Tree, 1923. Source: National archives

By the time radio was invented, the presidency had found a new pioneer: Franklin D. Roosevelt. His “fireside chats” were ever popular with Americans in war time and throughout the Great Depression, but he also relished the opportunity to give a Christmas Eve address that was heard in living rooms all over the country.

In 1929, the first lady established another tradition: an official tree inside the White House. It was Lou Herbert Hoover, and from that point on first ladies would carry the duty of Christmas decorations in the blue room (and out of it).

Christmas Eve 1943. Source: National archives

FDR on Christmas Eve, 1943. Source: National archives

In 1945, for the first time in four years, President Harry Truman lit the tree on the South Lawn, saying: “This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for through long and awful years. With peace come joy and gladness. The gloom of the war years fades as once more we light the National Community Christmas Tree.”

However, this labor on the lawn was eventually outsourced. In 1954, Earl C. Hargrove Jr. and his pals set up a 60-foot tree outside the White House. Back in his day, every light had to be installed manually — and the laborer was happy to do it for the president.

To this day, Hargrove, Inc. is still in charge of performing the duty.

First lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of choosing a “theme” for the tree inside of the White House. “That year the tree was decorated with ornamental toys, birds, angels and characters from the ‘Nutcracker Suite’ ballet,” according to official White House history.

The Kennedy's in the White House blue room during Christmas 1962. Source: JFK Library, national archives

The Kennedy’s in the White House blue room during Christmas 1962. Source: JFK Library, National Archives

Modern Christmas traditions at the White House

In 1983 a 7-year-old by the name of Amy Bentham joined President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan in lighting the tree.

According to the National Tree’s official history, she wrote the “Make a Wish” program and implored the president by saying: “The Christmas tree that lights up for our country must be seen all the way to heaven. I would wish so much to help the President turn on those Christmas lights.”

The Clintons in the blue room for Christmas during Bill's second term. Source: National Archives

The Clintons in the blue room for Christmas during Bill’s second term. Source: National Archives

At one point, the Clintons had filled the White House with thirty-six different Christmas trees in celebration of the Holiday spirit. Mr. and Mrs. Bush, meanwhile, hosted two local grade schoolers to light the National Tree.

The president’s “Call to Service” gave young Samara Banks and Benjamin Schneiller the courage to gather and distribute food for the homeless, and they were rewarded with an invitation by Bush himself.

George and Laura Bush singing carols with celebrities in Washington. Source: National Archives

George and Laura Bush singing carols with celebrities in Washington. Source: National Archives

By Obama’s first term, the White House Christmas tree had gotten more energy efficient — with the help of General Electric and LED lighting, it was 50 percent more energy efficient, in fact.

In 2010, first lady Michelle Obama announced the theme of “Simple Gifts” and explained, “The greatest blessings of all are the ones that don’t cost a thing: the time that we spend with our loved ones, the freedoms we enjoy as Americans and the joy we feel from reaching out to those in need.”

The National Christmas Tree in 2016. Source: National Archives

The National Christmas Tree in 2016. Source: National Archives

And earlier this year, to celebrate the National Tree paid homage to the National Park Service Centennial celebration with gold and white trimming. The ceremony itself was attended by none other than President Obama.