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Theodore Roosevelt and the Christmas Tree

Santa Roosevelt 2

In the actual world a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoffed at or ignored their religious needs, is a community on the rapid downgrade.

Theodore Roosevelt, 1917 interview Ladies Home Journal-Among his ten reasons to go to church every Sunday

 

 

 

Colonel Roosevelt, he hated being called Teddy and preferred being called Colonel, loved Christmas.  Whenever he was at home he would always appear at the local school in his home town as Santa, to dispense gifts he bought to the local kids, a fact highlighted in his local paper after he died:

He was a village institution as the master of ceremonies over the Christmas tree in Christ Episcopal Church, and in the role of Santa Claus at the Cove Neck School, near Sagamore Hill, where all of his children learned the A B C’s. Last Christmas was the first time that Colonel Roosevelt had failed to take charge of these functions since he left the White House, with the exception of the Christmas of 1913, when he was on his way to South America. His son, Captain Archie, took his place last Christmas as the Santa Claus of the Cove Neck School.

Roosevelt was a religious man with a deep love of the Bible and a strong faith in Christ.  It therefore comes as a surprise to learn that Roosevelt initially did not want a Christmas tree in the White House after he became President.

Matt Archbold at National Catholic Register brings us this story about President Roosevelt and the Christmas Tree:

President Theodore Roosevelt, an avowed environmentalist, banned Christmas trees from the White House during his presidency. The president was against real Christmas trees because he feared that Christmas trees would lead to deforestation. Mind you, at the time Christmas trees were very controversial with environmentalists. President William McKinley even reportedly received a letter in 1899 saying Christmas trees were “arboreal infanticide” and “un-American.”

Roosevelt’s action was intended to inspire Americans to just say no to Christmas trees. Clearly his bully pulpit didn’t have the effect he wanted, even on his own children.

In 1902, Roosevelt’s two youngest sons, Archie and Quentin, went outside and cut down a smallish tree right there on the White House grounds, snuck back into the White House, and hid it in a closet. The two boys decorated the tree in secret and even enlisted the help of an electrician on staff at the White House to help decorate it with lights. When Christmas morning came, Archie gathered his family outside the closet, turned on the switch, and opened the door to reveal the tree decorated with gifts for the entire family.

Roosevelt acknowledged the event in a letter in which he wrote:

Yesterday Archie got among his presents a small rifle from me and a pair of riding boots from his mother. He won’t be able to use the rifle until next summer, but he has gone off very happy in the riding boots for a ride on the calico pony Algonquin, the one you rode the other day. Yesterday morning at a quarter of seven all the children were up and dressed and began to hammer at the door of their mother’s and my room, in which their six stockings, all bulging out with queer angles and rotundities, were hanging from the fireplace. So their mother and I got up, shut the window, lit the fire (taking down the stockings of course), put on our wrappers and prepared to admit the children. But first there was a surprise for me, also for their good mother, for Archie had a little birthday tree of his own which he had rigged up with the help of one of the carpenters in a big closet; and we all had to look at the tree and each of us got a present off of it. There was also one present each for Jack the dog, Tom Quartz the kitten, and Algonquin the pony, whom Archie would no more think of neglecting that I would neglect his brothers and sisters. Then all the children came into our bed and there they opened their stockings.

According to the website White House Christmas Cards Teddy was “amused by his boys’ ingenuity” but took him to see his friend and environmental advisor, Gifford Pinchot, to explain to horrors of chopping down Christmas trees. But a funny thing happened.

To his surprise, Pinchot went into a lengthy explanation regarding how sometimes, cutting down some larger trees was in the best interests of forests, as it allowed a larger number of smaller young trees to receive the sunlight they need to flourish. While there is no public record of any other Christmas tree being displayed in the White House during Roosevelt’s presidency, a number of environmental acts and reforestation laws had been passed by the end of his term, and the public controversy over the use of live trees for decorative and traditional use had subsided for the time being.

Go here to read the rest.  Roosevelt would have trees in the White House during his term of office except in the years 1902, 1904 and 1907.

 

Yes, I know all the excuses. I know that one can worship the Creator and dedicate oneself to good living in a grove of trees, or by a running brook, or in one’s own house, just as well as in church. But I also know as a matter of cold fact the average man does not thus worship or thus dedicate himself. If he strays away from church, he does not spend his time in good works or lofty meditation. He looks over the colored supplement of the newspaper.

Theodore Roosevelt, 1917 interview Ladies Home Journal-Among his ten reasons to go to church every Sunday

Theodore Roosevelt and Family With Christmas Tree

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

2 Comments

  1. The most popular Xmas trees are Spruce, because of their scent (although they do shed their needles faster than pine)
    Pinchot is right; they are fast-growing and plantations need constant thinning. In Scotland, they are often grown as wind-breaks along the headlands of fields.

  2. “In the actual world a churchless community, a community where men have abandoned and scoffed at or ignored their religious needs,(Here, read ‘conscience’) is a community on the rapid downgrade.”

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