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Christmas with the Presidents: From Washington to Reagan

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Christmas with the Presidents, from Washington to Reagan

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This column was first published in December 2016.

Christmas is a time of celebration and coming together, of letting go of old—and not so old—hurts and looking forward to a new day and a new year.

It is a time to remember the ancient proverb, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” And this year, it is a prime opportunity to give thanks for a “tree of candles”—the White House Christmas tree—and what it has meant to Americans through the years.

George Washington set the standard in most things as our first president, but he was not the first chief executive to celebrate Christmas in the White House for a simple reason: Construction of the White House was not finished until after he left office in March 1797.

Nevertheless, he and Mrs. Washington entertained family, friends, and colleagues at Christmas time during the eight seasons he was our president.

Washington’s most unusual Christmas came in December 1776, when he was the commander in chief of the Continental Army and not yet president.

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In the dead of night and with a heavy snow falling, he crossed…



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