Do you consider the expense of Christmas in Washington, D.C. (national decorations, celebrations) to be legit since it is a national holiday? Is the tradition worth the cost? One of my students thinks not. As you read the following, remember that many Americans donate time, talent, and treasure to make it happen. It’s not 100% funded by taxpayers.
So, this is our topic in Jr. High Civics class: “Christmas in Washington, D.C.” We talked about many national traditions, like the huge Christmas tree on the mall. We also saw videos about the delivery and acceptance of the White House Christmas tree and the different themes chosen by the First Ladies to decorate the White House. The class had questions, but one question that might interest you stood out. But first:
A Bit of Background
The official White House Christmas tree (around 18 ft.) arrives by horse-drawn carriage, complete with a driver in a top hat and tails. The tradition is for the first family to come out and “approve” of the tree, grown by an American grower who then presents the gorgeous creation to the First Family on behalf of the American people.
The class wanted to know who gets to decorate the tree. We learned that thousands of American decorators apply, but only several hundred people are chosen. These volunteers decorate the entire White House main floor in about a week.
As my class viewed the themes for each White House room, like the Creche and the handcrafted decor, the stunning gingerbread house received the most ohs and ahs for the intricate artistry. We learned that the decor celebrates many aspects of American life on the trees and mantels in each room.
The Big Question: Is Christmas in Washington too Expensive?
Mind you, these are 12-13 year-olds. One student exclaimed her dissatisfaction with the whole thing. She asked, “How could the White House spend so much money [on this lavishness] while there are hungry and homeless people in the United States?” I think that is a very astute question for a Jr. High student. I responded that we, through our tax dollars, DO provide for hunger and homelessness. So do other organizations, like the local church. However, we have national traditions that we keep at Christmas time.
I continued, “Let’s say you refuse to do the dishes at home. Your parents don’t cancel the entire Christmas celebration because of your inaction. We don’t cancel all of our national Christmas celebrations because things are far from perfect. In our nation’s past, even First Lady Lady Bird Johnson decorated the White House for Christmas after one month of national mourning following the assassination of President Kennedy,
My student was not satisfied with my answer. She believes that the State is responsible for eradicating poverty. I encouraged this young teen to come before class in the future so we could talk at length. I also encouraged her to study, get a good job, and travel when she gets older so she can see how other countries celebrate national holidays.
If this were a high school class and I had more time, I would have discussed the four areas of government jurisdiction. They are self, family, church (or other organizations), and the national government. This week, I will re-post an article I wrote several years ago that explains this concept. You can also find it here: https://civicsandcitizenship.org/four-areas-of-jurisdiction/
Given the brief time frame in my class, how would you answer this student about the expense of Christmas in Washington? Join the discussion here: https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=848124503987891&set=a.507545634712448
This is Common Sense Civics and Citizenship.🇺🇸