It’s that time of year, the time to gather your spouse, your kids, and your pets together for that annual photo that goes out with your Christmas or other holiday card. If you feel stressed trying to get this photo done and all the cards mailed out to family and friends … well, it could be worse. You could be the president of the United States. Not only must the president choose a holiday card theme, which is sometimes questioned by critics, but the White House staff also has to mail the cards out to more than 1 million friends, political supporters and miscellaneous others. And you thought you had it tough. Here’s a quick look at how presidential Christmas or holiday cards have evolved through the years.
10. President Gerald Ford (1975)
At Christmastime in 1975, as the United States prepared to celebrate its bicentennial the following year, Betty Ford opted to go with an old-fashioned theme for the White House Christmas cards. She chose this 1858 painting, Farmyard in Winter by George H. Durrie, for the front.
9. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1942)
Here’s a simple card from Franklin and Eleanor, a low-key, non-celebratory approach for a nation embroiled in a deadly war at the time.
8. President Calvin Coolidge (1927)
President Coolidge served one of the most unremarkable and quiet terms of any president. His one claim to fame: he issued the first presidential Christmas greeting. Friends and others had asked the president to offer a Christmas message, a tall order for a man who earned the nickname “Silent Cal.” Coolidge eventually issued a handwritten message, which appeared in major U.S. newspapers on Christmas morning. It read in part, “Christmas is not a time or a season, but a state of mind.”
7. President Richard Nixon (1969)
Until Richard Nixon arrived in office, most presidents had never mailed out more than a few hundred Christmas cards each year, to congressmen, dignitaries and others. But Nixon shrewdly realized a personalized Christmas card would be a great way to thank his political supporters. During his time in office, Nixon’s staff sent out roughly 40,000 Christmas cards each year. And the practice has grown exponentially since then, with the White House now mailing out more than 1 million cards annually. The good news for taxpayers: the cards and postage are paid for by the president’s political party.
6. President Harry S. Truman (1951)
The White House has been featured in some way — even if it is just an interior room — on most presidential Christmas cards. But Harry and Bess Truman’s 1951 Christmas card featured a photo of the Blair House, where the couple lived from 1948 until 1952 during renovation of the dilapidated old White House.
5. President Herbert Hoover (1931)
President Hoover posed in the Rose Garden for this simple portrait for the Hoovers’ 1931 Christmas card.
4. President Barack Obama (2011)
Conservative critics were quick to point out that this card, like the other holiday cards sent out by President Obama, made no mention of the word Christmas, and seemed to inordinately focus on Bo the White House dog rather than the Christian holiday. By the way, you can send a request to the White House Greetings Office to send out a card to commemorate a special occasion, such as a birthday (age 80 or older) an anniversary (50th, 60th, 70th or later), or other major life events. Here are a few tips from About.com on how to order a card.
3. President Jimmy Carter (1978)
Both President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, were art buffs, a love reflected in the couple’s Christmas cards. The 1978 card featured a reproduction of a historic 1877 hand-colored wood engraving of the White House.
2. President George H.W. Bush (1992)
This Kamil Kubik painting of the National Christmas Tree captured the imagination of George and Barbara Bush, who asked the artist for permission to use it on the 1992 White House Christmas card. It seems hard to believe, but it marked the first time the famous tree had been the subject of a presidential Christmas card.
1. President John F. Kennedy (1961)
Not surprisingly, first ladies usually play a major role in holiday celebrations at the White House. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy introduced a new tradition for this 1961 card, choosing a Christmas tree theme. Kennedy’s theme: the Nutcracker Suite, with characters from the ballet by Tchaikovsky.