The official White House Christmas tree is always the holiday highlight of the Blue Room. This year's tree — an 18-foot, 6-inch Douglas fir — was presented to President and Mrs. Bush by Francis and Margaret Botek and their children, of the Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, Pennsylvania. The Botek family won this honor by being named the 2006 National Grand Champion Growers by the National Christmas Tree Association. This year's tree sparkles with crystals and ornaments of iridescent glass.
In years past, New Year's Day was the most important date on the White House holiday social calendar. The president hosted receptions for the Cabinet, the Supreme Court, the Congress, the military, the diplomatic corps, and the public. The first printed invitation for a White House New Year's reception dates back to 1801.
One of the most momentous New Year's Days in our country's history was January 1, 1863. Abraham Lincoln spent that morning at a public reception in the Blue Room, shaking hands with about six thousand people. Afterward, he went upstairs to attend to more historic business: signing the Emancipation Proclamation.
But President Lincoln's own hands still shook from the morning's exertions, and he had to pause before putting his pen to the document. "I never, in my life, felt more certain that I was doing right than I do in signing this paper," he said. "If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it. If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation, all who examine the document hereafter will say, 'He hesitated.'" The president waited for his hands to steady, and then slowly and firmly signed "Abraham Lincoln."