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The tradition of a placing a decorated tree in the White House began in 1889 on Christmas morning during the Presidency of Benjamin Harrison. The President's grandchildren, young Benjamin and Mary McKee, led the Harrison household into the second floor Oval Room to take a look at the first White House Christmas tree, which was lit with candles. Filled stockings hung from the mantel, and presents, candy and nuts were distributed to family and staff. President Harrison gave turkeys and gloves to his employees, and he received a silver-dollar-shaped picture holder from his daughter, Mame Harrison McKee.
What began as a family gathering has become a national tradition. Over the years, the White House Christmas tree has reflected both the times and the tastes of the First Family. First Lady Frances Cleveland created a "technology savvy" tree in 1895 when she hung electric lights on the White House tree. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of Christmas Tree themes when she decorated the 1961 Christmas tree in toy trimmings from the Nutcracker Suite ballet by Tchaikovsky.
Today, the First Lady selects a theme and taps the talents of American artisans, who give life to the idea. Laura Bush chose "Home for the Holidays" for the 2001 theme, which features replicas of the family homes of the nation's Presidents.
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