Contributed by RL

The National Christmas Tree, 12/14/1978 | by The U.S. National Archives

Starting a tradition and keeping it going takes a lot of effort. Each family, no matter which one you talk with, whether planned or just something that they like to do when they get together, has a tradition. Some are funny little things that bring a smile and some are the traditions we have of what we eat on certain occasions or special events in our families.

You know things like turkey for Thanksgiving and ham for Christmas. One of our traditions is oyster stew for New Years Eve and of course hot cocoa after getting a Christmas tree. When the family gets together there is always pizza, dutch oven potatoes, eggs of every kind and sort with lots of laughter, spaghetti, pancakes, milk, and don't forget the cookies. (https://www.pinterest.com/explore/cookies/)

Our nation of the United States of America also has many traditions. One is the lighting of the National Christmas Tree.

This all started in 1923 when First Lady, Grace Coolidge, said it was alright for the District of Columbia Public Schools to put up a Christmas tree on the Ellipse, an area just south of the White House. (https://www.nps.gov/whho/planyourvisit/explore-the-southern-trail.htm) The organizers of the event called it the “National Christmas Tree” and it has stuck and remains a tradition that has lasted 96 years for our nation when then President Calvin Coolidge became the first President in America to “light” the National Christmas Tree.

Presidents have always taken the time since the first lighting of the tree to give words of encouragement and guidance. Sometimes that advice has been for approaching dark times in our nations history like in 1940 a year before the break out of World War II when President Franklin D. Roosevelt took the opportunity to condemn war and give the beatitudes of Christ to the nation and the world. Then he called upon all nations even “belligerent nations to read the Sermon the Mount.”

That was the last time the National Christmas Tree was lit until the close of the Second World War.

President Truman had the honor of lighting the tree for the first time after the end of that great conflict that cost so many lives. In part he said, “This is the Christmas that a war-weary world has prayed for through long and awful years. With peace come joy and gladness. The gloom of the war years fades as once more we light the “National Christmas Tree.”

Almost 10 years later it was suggested that a “Christmas Pageant of Peace” be added to the lighting of the national tree. So a “Pathway of Peace” was organized which consist of smaller trees that represent all of the states, the District of Columbia and territories of the United Sates. This pathway was completed in December 1954 and President Dwight D. Eisenhower turned on the lights for the nation.

Following the death of President Kennedy (https://www.whitehousehistory.org/john-f-kennedy-funeral) the lighting of the National Christmas Tree was postponed to honor the thirty-day period of national mourning for the passing of a President in office. In a solemn ceremony, President Lyndon Johnson with his wife Lady Bird and daughter Luci, turned on the lights to the national tree. President Johnson said, “Today we come to the end of a season of great national sorrow,...” and then shared his hope with the nation that we “not lose the closeness and the sense of sharing and the spirit of mercy and compassion, which these last few days have brought to us all.”

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree has also been associated with youth service projects like when President George W. Bush challenged the youth in and around Washington DC area to participate in a “Call to Service” program which involved them in preparing and distributing food to homeless men and women in the area. And now we even have a national service program that individuals can come and help others. (https://www.nationalservice.gov/) Over the years the National Christmas Tree has been a symbol to reach beyond ourselves and help others generating service to our fellow Americans in our communities and throughout the nation.

As set in years past this years lighting of the National Christmas Tree by President Trump who shared his feelings on those who have passed through the the eye of the storm so to speak as he remembered the disasters across the country this year saying, “Our thoughts turn to those who are rebuilding their lives after devastating wildfires, destructive hurricanes and terrible tragedy,” he said. “We are one American family, and we hurt together, and we heal together, and we will always pull through together.” (https://thenationaltree.org/)

As I am snacking while watching all of these Christmas programs from the convenience of my living room via the television I began to wonder what it was they ate at the event that brought all this celebration to pass. You know what kind of meals did they serve at the Inns in Bethlehem when a couple came looking for a place to stay to give birth to Him whose birth we celebrate.

As you know it was a harder time to live compared to our time but their meals were not that much uncommon from what we have today. Of course they made bread from scratch, (well just about everything they ate they made from scratch) they also had cheese, milk, olives, onions, dried fruits, something that was like a liquid yogurt, lentil stew and fish. Maybe we can try some of these foods this Christmas season. In fact I saw some pomegranates sitting on my sons table just this morning.

Its a small world we live in all connected by our common bond of brotherhood. Lets use our desires to make the world a little better by lending a helping hand to one another. Following an example of a babe who lights the world with love. 'Til next time RL