America has always been a big fan of Christmas. The settlers who arrived in the early 1600’s held Christmas with a high regard, preserving it as “a sacred occasion and a day of rest.” Many Christmas traditions can be traced back to America’s Founding Fathers, who each celebrated Christmas in their own way. George Washington celebrated Christmas with his family at Mount Vernon, where the entire family spent 12 days celebrating the holiday. They would host family and friends to celebrate Christmas during the lengthy 12-day holiday.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Franklin was vocal about his faith in God, who he called “Creator of the universe” who “governs it by his Providence.” He remarked in his Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1733, “A good conscience is a continual Christmas.
The first White House Christmas party can be attributed to the second President of the United States. John Adams and his wife hosted their Christmas party for their four-year-old granddaughter Susanna Boylston Adams, and the event was attended by government officials and their children. Thomas Jefferson described Christmas as “the day of greatest mirth and jollity” and recounted how he celebrated Christmas with his grandchildren. Upon inheriting the White House from Jefferson, James Madison continued the Christmas tradition of hosting parties at the White House, but he and First Lady Dolley began the tradition of sending out Christmas cards to their family and friends. John Quincy Adams wrote “Is it not that in the chain of human events, the birthday of a nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?”
It is through reflecting on the thoughts of the Founding Fathers on Christmas and their faith that Americans can understand how deeply rooted the holiday is in America’s identity and culture.
On June 26, 1870, the American government declared Christmas a federal holiday.