Richard and Pat Nixon

State Flower Tree, 1969

State Flower Tree
click for enlarged view

The Vietnam War was going strong when the Nixons entered the White House in 1969 so it isn't surprising that Christmas that year was a study in contrasts. Pat Nixon personally supervised an elaborate plan for decorating the White House. For the first time in a quarter century, wreaths were hung in every window. In the Great Hall stood a 19-foot fir tree with ornaments that featured the flowers of the fifty states, such as the ones on our tree. Meanwhile, outside the White House a conflict was waging between those supporting the war and those who were opposed to it. In response to the National Christmas Tree, war protestors set up their own tree and decorated it with soda pop cans and tin foil peace symbols.

Christmas celebrations during the following years were not much better. In 1969, the train bringing the National Tree from South Dakota to Washington was twice derailed and a surprise storm on December 6th that year blew the tree down! In 1972, the Pageant of Peace was embroiled in legal controversy over the use of religious symbols. The nativity scene that had always been part of the pageant was no longer allowed. And in 1973, an air of gloom hung over the White House as the Watergate investigation continued.

Richard Nixon would not spend Christmas of 1974 in the White House. Driven from office that previous August, the only man to have resigned the presidency spent Christmas of 1974 with his family on their estate in San Clemente, California.



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