Do you ever wonder how past generations in our country celebrated Christmas? For several years, I have read about cherished Christmas traditions Americans developed over the years, as well as historical events, such as Washington’s crossing the Delaware River on the night of December 25, 1776. The latter holds a special place in my memory.
This year, “American Minute,” by William J. Federer, included an article with quotes of various presidents as they extended Christmas greetings to the American people. Federer is a writer, author, speaker, and president of Amerisearch, Inc.
I share these for your interest and enjoyment with attribution and gratitude to William J. Federer and “American Minute.” (americanminute dot com, “Christmas Truce of 1914 and Selected Presidential Christmas Greetings).
“On December 25, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson wrote to General Pershing and the American troops stationed on the battle-front in France:
“While it is hard far away from home, confidentially, to bid you a MERRY CHRISTMAS, I can, I think, confidentially, promise you a Happy New Year, and I can from the bottom of my heart say, God bless you.”
Subsequent U.S. Presidents continued the tradition of acknowledging Christmas.
On December 23, 1921, President Warren G. Harding stated of the U.S. delegation drawing up the Four-Powers Treaty, that he:
“… is more than gratified over their efforts, because they are working out the greatest contribution to peace and goodwill which has ever marked the CHRISTMAS time in all the Christian era.”
President Calvin Coolidge wrote:
“CHRISTMAS is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of CHRISTMAS.”
On December 22, 1931, President Herbert Hoover stated:
“I have received requests from Federal employees … that they should be given two periods of holidays … CHRISTMAS and … New Year’s Day …
While I see little objection to the day following CHRISTMAS in order that Federal employees may have an opportunity to join their families … I do not feel that we should extend the holidays at New Year’s.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated in his Christmas Message, December 24, 1942:
“It is significant that CHRISTMAS Day our plants and factories will be stilled. That is not true of the other holidays. On all other holidays work goes on–gladly–for the winning of the war.
So CHRISTMAS becomes the only holiday in all the year. I like to think that this is so because CHRISTMAS is a holy day. May all it stands for live and grow throughout the years.”
On December 24, 1946, President Harry S Truman stated:
“We shall find strength and courage at this CHRISTMAS time …
He whose birth we celebrate tonight was the world’s greatest teacher. He said:
‘Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.’
Through all the centuries since He spoke, history has vindicated His teaching. In this great country of ours has been demonstrated the fundamental unity of Christianity and democracy … We have our unique national heritage because of a common aspiration to be free and because of our purpose to achieve for ourselves and for our children the good things of life which the Christ declared He came to give to all mankind …
The progress we have made gives hope that in the coming year we shall reach our goal … the benediction of the Master: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God’ …
I say to all my countrymen: Merry CHRISTMAS! … and may God bless you all!”
In 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower stated:
“Through the ages men have felt the uplift of the spirit of CHRISTMAS. We commemorate the birth of the Christ Child by … giving expression to our gratitude for the great things that His coming has brought about in the world.”
President John F. Kennedy stated December 17, 1962:
“CHRISTMAS … is the most sacred and hopeful day in our civilization.”
On December 18, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson stated at a News Conference:
Q. Mr. President, can you tell us about your CHRISTMAS plans yet?
THE PRESIDENT … If God is willing and Mrs. Johnson is willing, I plan to fly to my home either the night of the 22d, after I light the CHRISTMAS tree …I hope to spend CHRISTMAS Eve with my family … I don’t want to keep my secrets from you people — I might even go hunting.”
President Richard Nixon stated January 20, 1969:
“As the Apollo astronauts flew over the moon’s gray surface on CHRISTMAS Eve, they spoke to us the beauty of earth — and in that voice so clear across the lunar distance, we heard them invoke God’s blessing on its goodness.”
President Gerald Ford remarked lighting of the National Community Christmas Tree, December 17, 1974:
“The glow of CHRISTMAS, however, should come from a power source which we will never run short of, our abiding faith and our love of God.”
President Jimmy Carter commented in 1977:
“CHRISTMAS has a special meaning for those of us who are Christians, those of us who believe in Christ, those of us who know that almost 2,000 years ago, the Son of Peace was born.”
President Ronald Reagan stated in his Christmas Address, DECEMBER 20, 1983:
“Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations we forget that the true meaning of Christmas was given to us by the angelic host that holy night long ago.
Christmas is the commemoration of the birth of the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, whose message would truly be one of good tidings and great joy, peace and good will.
During this glorious festival let us renew our determination to follow His example.”
Do you have a favorite quote? What observations do you have about the national acknowledgement of Christmas during this 65- year time period?
As you celebrate this national holiday, have a Merry Christmas! Glad tidings and great joy to all across our great country!
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.