Christmas at the Coolidges

Once upon a time, Christmas trees were still called Christmas trees. There were no Black Friday sales, no “Jingle Bell Rock,” and certainly no lawsuits over the permissibility of public celebration of the birth of Christ.

Calvin Coolidge loved Christmas. Christmastime was a “sacrament observed with the exchange of gifts, when the stockings were hung, and the spruce tree was lighted in the symbol of Christian faith and love,” he wrote in his Autobiography. It was Christmas Eve, 1923, when President Coolidge lit the first “National Christmas tree” on the White House lawn. A 48-foot balsam fir, the tree was cut and transported from his beloved Vermont, given as a gift from the president of Middlebury College and paid for by Middlebury alumni. Vermont senator Frank L. Greene convinced the reluctant Coolidge to flip the switch. It would, alas, be the last Christmas Senator Green would actually enjoy; he was struck by a stray bullet from Prohibition agents on his walk along the Capitol that following February. He died from complications six years later.

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