The Blue Room of the White House annually features the official indoor Christmas tree of the President and his family. The Blue Room Christmas Tree normally stands between 18-20 feet tall (the tree is so tall that the Blue Room’s chandelier is removed during the holidays) and is donated by the National Christmas Tree Association which chooses a tree from a grower determined in a NCTA contest each year. More Blue Room Christmas Trees have come from North Carolina than any other state in the nation.
The first Christmas tree installed in the White House wasn’t until the Presidency of Franklin Pierce in the 1850’s and the history of White House Christmas trees is incomplete with no mention of another tree in the President’s house until the term of Benjamin Harrison, three decades after Pierce. After Harrison, White House Christmas trees were more common, yet still not a tradition. During his term, Theodore Roosevelt frequently did not have a tree in the White House — one year it was due to the fact that TR didn’t order one quickly enough for delivery by Christmas.
It is believed that every President since Hoover in 1929 has had an indoor Christmas tree in the White House and the indoor trees are usually decorated or dedicated by the First Lady. Since Jacqueline Kennedy started the tradition in 1961, First Ladies have chosen an annual theme for the Blue Room tree’s decorations. The 1961 theme that Jackie Kennedy picked was based on the Nutcracker Suite while the theme chosen by Michelle Obama is “Shine, Give, Share”.
Of course, the Blue Room Christmas tree isn’t the only Christmas tree in the White House. There are often smaller trees decorated in various parts of the Executive Mansion, including a private tree decorated by the President’s family in the White House Residence. While White House Christmas trees were infrequent or intermittent in the 19th Century, a visitor to the White House in the 21st Century might find up to 40 Christmas trees inside the Executive Mansion as well as decorated trees on the grounds of the White House.
The President and his family are also responsible for dedicating and lighting the National Christmas tree which is located on the Ellipse directly to the south of the White House gates. In 1923, Calvin Coolidge was the first President to light the National Christmas tree and until 1978 the National tree was a cut tree that had been transported to Washington and placed near the White House for decoration.
In 1978, during the Carter Administration, the National Park Service planted a live tree that they found in Pennsylvania and determined would thrive in Washington year-round. Thus, the National Christmas Tree is now a living tree (47 years old) that stands 42 feet tall near the White House in all seasons but is decorated for holiday display each Christmas.