FDR's wartime Christmas serves as beacon in fight against hate

  

Category:  History & Sociology

Via:  john-russell  •  one month ago  •  48 comments

 FDR's wartime Christmas serves as beacon in fight against hate
On Christmas Eve, as the nation's capital bristled with extra security, Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill – who had sailed for 10 days across the Atlantic to discuss global war strategy – emerged on the South Portico to light the tree. Christmas, the president told the assembled crowd and a nationwide radio audience, signified the "dignity and brotherhood of man" in the face of "enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them."

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T



Stewart D. McLaurin, a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors, is president of the White House Historical Association, a private nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded by first lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961.

The holiday season at the White House has become a public moment, part of our national traditions. The lighting of the National Christmas Tree is televised. Visitors and dignitaries get to glimpse an Executive Mansion dressed up with glittering lights, garland and rich decorations.

It wasn't always this way.

The first known Christmas party at the White House was a small affair for the granddaughter of President John Adams and first lady Abigail Adams.

Family lore has it that President Andrew Jackson's children staged an indoor "snowball fight" with specially made cotton balls.

First White House Christmas tree to first public lighting of

the National Christmas Tree

The first documented record of a White House Christmas tree didn't come until 1889, when President Benjamin Harrison put up an evergreen in the family quarters.

Decades later, President Calvin Coolidge flipped the switch on the first public lighting of the National Christmas Tree. (The tree displayed in the Blue Room is still brought to the White House in a horse-drawn carriage.)

It wasn't until President Franklin Roosevelt, who spent 10Christmases at the White House, that the holiday season at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue moved toward becoming a bigger and more national event.

A big Christmas Eve party was thrown for White House staff. EleanorRoosevelt used the holidays to draw attention to Great Depression conditions – by visiting tree-lightingsin Black and working-class neighborhoods, along with charitable events hosted by the Salvation Army, Central Union Mission or a local Kiwanis club.

But the Roosevelts still celebrated a private Christmas, hanging stockings in the family quarters (including one with a rubber bone for Fala the Scottish terrier). Each year, FDR sat with his family for more than three hours to read Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

Christmas through war and peace

Then came wartime. In the days after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans were on high alert. Fear and nighttime blackouts triggered calls to cancel the tree lighting.

On Christmas Eve, as the nation's capital bristled with extra security, Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill – who had sailed for 10 days across the Atlantic to discuss global war strategy – emerged on the South Portico to light the tree. Christmas, the president told the assembled crowd and a nationwide radio audience, signified the "dignity and brotherhood of man" in the face of "enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them."

World War II brought changes large and small to Christmas at the White House. Roosevelt's four sons fanned out on active duty, scattered across the world. Holiday gifts to staff included war bonds and a scroll with Roosevelt's "D-Day Prayer." As conservation and rationing took hold, electric bulbs were replaced with ornaments made by local schoolchildren.

When the war ended in 1945, President Harry Truman lit the tree with electricity once again: "This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for through long and awful years."

Christmas at the White House resumed its growth and traditions. It was first lady Mamie Eisenhower – who one year installed 26 trees, varying from tabletop size to 18 feet – who started the practice of regularly displaying a tree in the Blue Room.

Jackie Kennedy followed, kicking off a tradition of decorating themes (she chose Nutcracker Suite). Motifs since have included Antique Toys, Mother Goose, American Craft, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, Holidays in the National Parks, All Creatures Great and Small, and Simple Gifts. (This year's is We the People.)

First lady Patricia Nixon used Christmas to make the White House more visible and accessible, including candlelight tours for the public.

She also began the practice of commissioning White House chefs to build holiday gingerbread houses – a simple A-frame design at first; later festooned with candy, jellybeans and reindeer; then growing into a village of gingerbread houses topped with hundreds of marzipan figures and spun sugar decorations. In 1993, first lady Hillary Clinton oversaw the creation of a gingerbread replica of the White House that weighed nearly 100 pounds.

Others have modeled Santa's workshop, a winter castle and national monuments and historic landmarks.

Patricia Nixon's gingerbread legacy lives on in this year's "White House in Gingerbread" ornament – the latest in a White House ornament series going back to 1981 that has become a holiday tradition for millions of Americans.

Holiday celebrations

have become diverse

White House holiday celebrations are also becoming more diverse. President Jimmy Carter began a tradition of attending local Hanukkah celebrations that President George W. Bush converted into an annual White House menorah lighting, in which the Marine Band plays Hanukkah favorites.

Before the White House acquired a permanent menorah, it would often borrow a historically significant one for the occasion: 2008 featured a bronze candelabra given to President Truman by Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion for the president's help in establishing the state of Israel. (It was lit by the two leaders' grandsons.)

After the parties and shopping and traveling, there will come an all-too-short respite. Maybe a little snow will cover the White House and its lawn and the trees, a moment of gray and white calm.

Presidents Truman and Reagan were known to try their hand at snowballs; here's hoping that many of you can do the same this year.


Tags

jrDiscussion - desc
[]
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1  seeder  JohnRussell    one month ago

1941 seems like a million years ago now. 

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
1.1  Sparty On  replied to  JohnRussell @1    one month ago

Yep and unfortunately we now have entire generations that are completely clueless of the sacrifices required back then and are too busy bitching about their data plans and having to actually work to make a living to give a damn.

Sad, very sad.

 
 
 
Drinker of the Wry
Sophomore Principal
1.2  Drinker of the Wry  replied to  JohnRussell @1    one month ago

Exactly, and it took a few more months for FDR to forcibly relocate and incarcerate over 125 thousand people of Japanese descent in US concentration camps.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Expert
1.2.1  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @1.2    one month ago

Odd how people forget that little bit of information.

 
 
 
Ronin2
Professor Quiet
1.2.2  Ronin2  replied to  Drinker of the Wry @1.2    one month ago

Thank you for mentioning that. 

It was Reagan that signed a law giving those still alive that were put into US internment camps reparations.

 
 
 
Ronin2
Professor Quiet
1.2.3  Ronin2  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @1.2.1    one month ago

Racism only applies to those on the right. FDR was a leftist through and through; so his racism is overlooked by Democrats and leftists.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Expert
1.2.4  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Ronin2 @1.2.3    one month ago
Racism only applies to those on the right.

And only if it's directed at blacks (or what ever the shiny object of the day is).  

his racism is overlooked by Democrats and leftists.

It's those pink tinted lenses.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Expert
1.2.5  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Ronin2 @1.2.2    one month ago

Good read!!!!!

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
1.2.6  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @1.2.1    one month ago

No one has forgotten that Japanese Americans were treated unfairly, but it was war time and lots of bad choices were made due to the war. How about the US Army, without approval from FDR, relocated 1100 Aleut Indians to internment camps where about 10% of them died, supposedly to protect them? That seems to be forgotten in history, too. 

 
 
 
devangelical
Professor Principal
1.2.7  devangelical  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.6    one month ago

... you won't be teaching crt classes anytime soon.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Expert
1.2.8  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.6    one month ago

Many have forgotten about it.  Just like they forgot about the the same thing happening Native Americans, under the same POTUS.  

None of it is excusable by any shape or form.  I thought the "thing to do" was not celebrate those who have done things like this.  Yet here we are doing just that, celebrating a POTUS whose racist policies hurt a specific demographic(s).  

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
1.2.9  Sparty On  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @1.2.8    one month ago
None of it is excusable by any shape or form. 

True but armchair quarterbacking such bad decisions with hindsight decades, even centuries later, does little good either.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
1.2.10  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @1.2.8    one month ago

Jeremy,

He wasn't perfect by a long shot, but he did save this country. In that sense, he was no different than Lincoln. Lincoln was a racist, too, but we still honor him for keeping the country together.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Expert
1.2.11  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.10    one month ago
He wasn't perfect by a long shot, but he did save this country.

I agree.  Now if we are going to call out those how did wrong, we need to call them all out.  

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
1.2.12  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  devangelical @1.2.7    one month ago

LOL...

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
1.2.13  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @1.2.11    one month ago

That is not what this article is about. It is about what a Christmas message that FDR made, and for some reason, you guys decided it was time to bash that. 

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Expert
1.2.14  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.13    one month ago
It is about what a Christmas message that FDR made, and for some reason, you guys decided it was time to bash that. 

There is not bashing that.  It's the other things he's done that overshadows that message for others.  

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
1.2.15  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Jeremy Retired in NC @1.2.14    one month ago

Sorry no. Holding a country together during wartime is a very important thing. Churchill did the same thing for the same reason.

It is still not the topic of this article.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1.2.16  Vic Eldred  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.10    one month ago
Lincoln was a racist, too,

Really?


You know Perrie, it's degrading enough to come over here and comment on one of these BS articles, but to hear people who should know better try to protect FDR from a little well deserved crtiticism is appalling. FDR also wanted to stack the Court and never got the US out of the depression. He got elected 4 times because he convinced Americans at the time, that he knew how to get us out from under the Great Depression and he didn't. WWII got us out! He was very sick and failing in his final year and because of him Eastern Europe was all but handed over to Stalin.

BTW Lincoln was not a racist. The only racists I know are democrats.

Example: "white Cubans are hateful."

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
1.2.17  Kavika   replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.6    one month ago

It's should be noted that the Aleuts were never allowed to return to their homeland and Reagen gave the Japanese $20,000 each for being in the internment camps he/congress gave the Aleuts only $12,000. Oh, and 40 Aleut were taken as POW where half of them died in Japan.

It was the Alaska Natives that were the first line of defense for Alaska in WWII, known as the Eskimo Scouts. 

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
1.2.18  Ender  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.2.16    one month ago

BS article? It is an article about Christmas tradition at the WH and all your buddies did nothing but come here and shit on it with off topic bullshit.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1.2.19  Vic Eldred  replied to  Ender @1.2.18    one month ago

Well Ender, for something that is "off topic" you and others have gone to great lengths to debate it.

Once somebody calls "Lincoln a racist" all claims to topic are over.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
1.2.20  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.2.16    one month ago

Vic,

I'm on this article, but I have to tell you that it is meta. The article is not about FDR in general. It was about a wartime Christmas message. 

And btw, Lincoln was a racist. Racists know no party. They just are and I have met plenty in both parties.

 
 
 
Ender
Professor Principal
1.2.21  Ender  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.2.19    one month ago

I haven't debated shit so stop with the making of ones own reality.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
1.2.22  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.2.19    one month ago

Wrong Vic. I was just making a point that no one is perfect. 

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
1.2.23  Kavika   replied to  Vic Eldred @1.2.16    one month ago

You may want to do some research on the interment of the Japanese. William Warren as AG of CA and later governor was instrumental in that disaster additionally only one prominent politician of either party was against it and that was Governor Carr or Colorado. 

BTW Lincoln was not a racist. 

You may want to actually read what Frederick Douglass had to say about that and some of Lincoln's own thoughts are good reading as well.

The only racists I know are democrats.

It's a very small world that you live in.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1.2.24  Vic Eldred  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.22    one month ago

Whatever the point, Lincoln was never a racist.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1.2.25  Vic Eldred  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.20    one month ago
And btw, Lincoln was a racist.

No he was not. Have you joined the woke?

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
1.2.26  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.2.25    one month ago

Vic, I'm taking this off topic to another article. No, I have not joined the woke, but I will make my point in another article.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1.2.27  Vic Eldred  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.26    one month ago

Fair enough.

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.2.28  Tessylo  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.26    one month ago

Being woke isn't a bad thing.  Those who disparage the woke aren't woke in the first place and oblivious to the true meaning of what it means to be woke

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.2.29  Tessylo  replied to  Kavika @1.2.23    one month ago

A very, very NARROW world Kav!

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
Professor Principal
1.2.30  Perrie Halpern R.A.  replied to  Tessylo @1.2.28    one month ago

Tess,

I don't care what people want to call it. To me, the word woke sounds kitschy. I deal in facts. 

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
1.2.31  Sean Treacy  replied to  Kavika @1.2.23    one month ago
William Warren as AG of CA and later gov

It was actually Earl Warren, the future liberal Chief Justice of the  Supreme Court 

r additionally only one prominent politician of either party was aga

FDR's own AG argued against it. 

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.2.32  Tessylo  replied to  Ender @1.2.18    one month ago

That's what they do . . . . .

 
 
 
Tessylo
Professor Principal
1.2.33  Tessylo  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.30    one month ago

whatever

 
 
 
Hallux
Junior Principal
1.2.34  Hallux  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.2.25    one month ago

3 hours in and this seed has become a beacon for hate   [removed]

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
1.2.35  Kavika   replied to  Sean Treacy @1.2.31    one month ago

You are correct it was Earl Warren who was a Republican. 

My comment said ''politician'' and the AG isn't a politician but if you want to count him that makes two. Additionally, he argued that Japanese that were American citizens shouldn't be interned but did not argue that non-citizens of Japanese ancestry couldn't be interned.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
1.2.36  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Vic Eldred @1.2.19    one month ago
Once somebody calls "Lincoln a racist" all claims to topic are over.

What kind of nonsense is that?  The topic of the seed is clearly how the White House has noted Christmas over the decades. With a starting emphasis on Roosevelt  in 1941.  Lincoln's racism has nothing to do with it.  However, the person who brought up Lincoln was only reacting to the previous off topic comments about FDR. 

-

Abraham Lincoln did not agree with slavery and always thought it should be ended. He also thought that in an integrated society whites would always naturally have the upper hand. Does that make him a racist? Its a matter of opinion. 

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
1.2.37  Sparty On  replied to  Kavika @1.2.17    one month ago
Oh, and 40 Aleut were taken as POW where half of them died in Japan.

Hmmmmm .... one wonders how many more would been taken prisoner and/or died had they not been relocated.    Well not really.    

It undoubtably would have been many more.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
1.2.38  Kavika   replied to  Sparty On @1.2.37    one month ago
Hmmmmm .... one wonders how many more would been taken prisoner and/or died had they not been relocated.    Well not really.    

We do know that 10% that were ''interned'' for protection died while in US custody from lack of care. 

There are a number of articles on this and how the Aleuts were treated by the US government. In the meantime, the Aleuts and thousands of other indigenous Alaskans joined the Territorial Guard known as the Eskimo Scouts to guard the shores of Alaska. 

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
1.2.39  Sparty On  replied to  Kavika @1.2.38    one month ago

I don’t need a link to know a much higher percentage would have died with the Japanese.    Interned or not.    You know how the Japanese were in WW2 with prisoners.    One word.

Brutal.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
1.2.40  Kavika   replied to  Sparty On @1.2.39    one month ago

You do need a link to understand the conditions that the Aleut people kept in and the US government finally apologized and paid some restitution.

 
 
 
Kavika
Professor Principal
1.2.41  Kavika   replied to  Sparty On @1.2.39    one month ago

You do need a link to understand the conditions that the Aleut people kept in and the US government finally apologized and paid some restitution.

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
1.2.42  Sparty On  replied to  Kavika @1.2.40    one month ago

Nah but that chip on shoulders is getting your way again.

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
1.2.43  Sparty On  replied to  Kavika @1.2.41    one month ago

Nah but that chip on shoulders is getting your way again.

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
Professor Expert
1.2.44  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.15    one month ago
ll your buddies did nothing but come here and shit on it with off topic

So you just don't like the criticism.  Subject or not, it doesn't change what happened.  And here I thought the progressive thing to do was to call out things like this.  I guess it's subjective.

 
 
 
Ed-NavDoc
Professor Quiet
1.2.45  Ed-NavDoc  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @1.2.10    one month ago

Far too many people make the mistake of trying to judge many American historical figures of the past according to today's standards while ignoring the context of the times in which they lived. Accepted norms, good or bad and right or wrong do in fact change with the times.

 
 

Who is online










Mark in Wyoming


28 visitors