THE IRON PEN by Daniel Hite

December 22, 2017

Christmas in America

Filed under: Uncategorized — danielhite @ 3:25 pm

Why is Christmas a National Holiday?

2017 National Christmas Tree Lighting

Christmas has long been celebrated regionally in America, mostly according to Old World customs imported with immigrants. It was in the 1850’s, with sectional strife and later civil war, that Christmas became a unifying repose during America’s most disunified time in her history. Christmas became a national (federal) holiday in 1870 (President U.S. Grant), along with New Year’s, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey, 90% of Americans say they celebrate Christmas; while 95% of Americans self-identifying as Christians say they celebrate Christmas.

How did former presidents celebrate and communicate Christmas?

American presidents, for more than 200 years, have celebrated Christmas in many ways:

*On his first Christmas Eve as our first president, George Washington (1789-1787) attended services at St. Paul’s church in New York City, our first Capital. President Washington was the only president who did not live in the White House. He was instrumental in selecting the design and location of the White House, but construction was not completed until after he left office. President Washington and his wife, Martha, were very big entertainers at Christmas. Although Christmas cards were not used until the mid 19th Century, George and Martha Washington sent many invitations during the eight Christmas seasons of Washington’s presidency, and they were often joined by relatives, friends and many prominent people of the times.

*When the second President of the United States, John Adams (1797-1801), moved into what would come to be known as the White House, the residence was cold, damp, and drafty. Sitting at the edge of a dreary swamp, the First Family had to keep 13 fireplaces lit in an effort to stay comfortable. It is in this setting that the cantankerous president held the first ever White House Christmas party in honor of his granddaughter, Susanna. It could be said that the invitations sent for this party were the very first White House Christmas cards, though in those early days, the building was referred to as the President’s Palace, Presidential Mansion, or President’s House. The affair was planned in large part by the vivacious First Lady, Abigail Adams, and was considered a great success. A small orchestra played festive music in a grand ballroom adorned with seasonal flora. After dinner, cakes and punch were served while the staff and guests caroled and played games.

*Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) was America’s third president. In 1805, six of Jefferson’s grandchildren and 100 of their friends – invited by Secretary of State James Madison’s wife, Dolley, who acted as official hostess – made for a tremendously enjoyable holiday party at which Jefferson played the violin for the dancing children. Christmas celebrations at the Jefferson White House were festive affairs where delicacies and local American foods were served.

(*From whitehousechristmascards.com)

One unique presidential correlation was made by our sixth president, John Quincy Adams (1825-1829), son of our second president. In an Independence Day address on July 4, 1837, President Adams addressed a Massachusetts audience with these words:

“Why is it that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets 600 years before?” (Read Luke 2:8-14 and Isaiah 11:1-10 for Adams’ Biblical context.)

John Quincy Adams, our last surviving Founding Father, blended together two celebrations: our nation’s birthday and the birth of Jesus—Christmas. America is a blessed nation because of her historic acknowledgment of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and His earthly mission.

Time or space does not allow us to cover all the presidential Christmas celebrations or comments, but here are some quotes from four 20th Century presidents and our current president.

“To the American People: Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world.
– Calvin Coolidge, 1927

“The spirit of Christmas breathes an eternal message of peace and good-will to all men. We pause therefore on this Holy Night and, laying down the burdens and the cares of life and casting aside the anxieties of the common day, rejoice that nineteen hundred years ago, heralded by angels, there came into the world One whose message was of peace, who gave to all mankind a new commandment of love. In that message of love and of peace we find the true meaning of Christmas.

And so I greet you with the greeting of the Angels on that first Christmas at Bethlehem which, resounding through centuries, still rings out with its eternal message: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will to men.’”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1935

“We mark the festival of Christmas which is the most sacred and hopeful day in our civilization. For nearly 2,000 years the message of Christmas, the message of peace and good will towards all men, has been the guiding star of our endeavors. This morning I had a meeting at the White House which included some of our representatives from far off countries in Africa and Asia. They were returning to their posts for the Christmas holidays. Talking with them afterwards, I was struck by the fact that in the far off continents Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, as well as Christians, pause from their labors on the 25th day of December to celebrate the birthday of the Prince of Peace. There could be no more striking proof that Christmas is truly the universal holiday of all men. It is the day when all of us dedicate our thoughts to others; when all are reminded that mercy and compassion are the enduring virtues; when all show, by small deeds and large and by acts, that it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
– John F. Kennedy, 1962

“Of all the songs ever sung at Christmastime, the most wonderful of all was the song of exaltation heard by the shepherds while tending their flocks on the night of Christ’s birth. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and said: ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.’ Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of voices praising the Heavenly Father and singing: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’

Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations we forget that the true meaning of Christmas was given to us by the angelic host that holy night long ago. Christmas is the commemoration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, whose message would truly be one of good tidings and great joy, peace and good will. During this glorious festival let us renew our determination to follow His example.”
– Ronald Reagan, 1983

“For Christians, this is a Holy season – the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Christmas story begins 2000 years ago with a mother, a father, their baby son, and the most extraordinary gift of all, the gift of God’s love for all of humanity.

Whatever our beliefs, we know that the birth of Jesus Christ and the story of this incredible life forever changed the course of human history. There’s hardly an aspect of our lives today that his life has not touched: art, music, culture, law, and our respect for the sacred dignity of every person everywhere in the world.

Each and every year at Christmas time we recognize that the real spirit of Christmas is not what we have, it’s about who we are – each one of us is a child of God.

That is the true source of joy this time of the year.

That is what makes every Christmas ‘merry.’

And that is what we remember at today’s beautiful ceremony, that we are called to serve one another, to love one another, and to pursue peace in our hearts and all throughout the world.”
Donald Trump, 2017 

Our Founding Fathers and successive presidents have long acknowledged God and this special celebration of the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways ACKNOWLEDGE HIM, and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6) “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Make it a blessed and merry Christmas 2017, America!

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1 Comment »

  1. THU, January 4, 2018
    Hello to Dan Hite!
    ‘just saw this; thank you, thank you, for such “truths” based on The Truth …
    our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Happiest New Year,
    the Williams Family (Troy, MO)

    Comment by the Williams Family — January 4, 2018 @ 12:12 pm | Reply


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