President Calvin Coolidge was known as Silent Cal, thrifty with his words and also thrifty with his pocketbook.
Because he didn’t want to spent the extra $500 to install a button at the White House to turn on the lights for the first National Christmas Tree, President Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace walked to the Ellipse on the South Lawn on Dec. 24, 1923. There he pushed a button with his foot to turn on 3,000 lights adorning a 60-foot fir tree from Vermont, his birth state.
Three years later, Coolidge became the first president to issue a Christmas Day message, which was printed in newspapers across the country.
“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 of 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, Dec. 25, 1927.
Christmas in America started out as a holy day primarily observed by Anglicans, or members of the Church of England who settled colonies, such as Virginia. The Common Book of Prayer guided observers through the Advent season and the twelve days of Christmas.
Some religious Puritans, who settled in Massachusetts in the 1600s, outlawed Christmas celebrations for a time because they wanted to reform the English church. The traditions of decorating homes and churches with greenery, singing carols, hosting balls, and drinking eggnog became so popular, that Christians of most denominations adopted them.
The merriment and joy of this holy day became a national holiday in 1870, when President Ulysses Grant established Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and July 4, as national holidays to bring Americans together after the divisive Civil War.
Jane Hampton Cook is the author of eight books, including American Phoenix, http://www.americanphoenixbook.com.