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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

We Repeat, Still a Christmas Tree

Q: Will the Obamas do away with the White House Christmas tree?

A: No. This zombie rumor first appeared in 2009 and was proved false. It is still false today.


Is this email true? I don’t think so, but I need your reply to pass on to those who may be duped.

White House will not do Christmas!

Thought you might be interested in this information from the White House.. This isn’t a rumor; this is a fact.

A very talented artist for several years has painted ornaments to be hung on the various White House Christmas trees. The WH sends out an invitation to send an ornament and informs the artists of the theme for the year.

She got her letter from the WH recently. It said that they would not be called Christmas trees this year. They will be called Holiday trees. And, to please not send any ornaments painted with a religious theme. She was very upset at this development and sent back a reply telling them that she painted the ornaments for Christmas trees and would not be sending any for display that left Christ out of Christmas.

Just thought you should know what the new residents in the WH plan for the future of America . If you missed his statement that “we do not consider ourselves a Christian Nation” this should confirm that he plans to take us away from our religious foundation as quickly as possible.

Just another step toward turning America away from Christianity!

We should shout to the highest hills that the White House is ours – not the Obama’s, and 85% of Americans believe in Christ (Christmas)..

You have two choices, delete or pass it on


The approaching Christmas season has sparked the return of this false email, which claims to be from a friend of an artist who makes Christmas ornaments for the White House. We wrote about this same email back in 2009.

FactCheck.org, 2009: This e-mailed accusation has all the hallmarks of a hoax. The author isn’t identified, making it impossible to trace the source or assess his or her credibility. At best it is double hearsay, passing on something supposedly said by a second unnamed source, who is identified as little more than “a friend at church.” The church isn’t named, nor is the community or even the state in which it exists, if it does. It refers to a “letter from the WH [White House]” but doesn’t say who signed it, or when it was sent. This is just the sort of unsupported gossip that any sensible person should disregard and delete rather than spreading.

We think that advice is as good today as it was two years ago. And just as we suggested, events quickly proved this 2009 fabrication to be utterly false.

The 2009 White House Christmas tree — an 18 1/2 foot Douglas fir — was delivered on schedule Nov. 27, 2009.  Later, in a White House video, the first lady described how decorations were created and how dozens of volunteers helped place ornaments on the tree and deck the halls of the executive mansion for the holidays. As in past years, thousands of visitors came to the White House to see the tree and take photos. So much for the claim that the “White House will not do Christmas!”

Indeed, the White House followed tradition again last year. The 2010 White House Christmas tree can be seen being delivered to the first lady on Nov. 26, 2010, in a White House video. A military band is heard playing “O Christmas Tree” as the first lady and her daughters accepted it. The Christmas tree was kept in the Blue Room of the White House, continuing a longstanding tradition. In addition, there were 19 Christmas trees on display last year for visitors who toured the White House.

So we thought the old “holiday tree” rumor was dead and buried, after being proved wrong two years in a row. And yet, in 2011 this undead claim is again going around, like some anti-Obama zombie. We’ve received numerous queries about it. And as should be obvious by now, it’s just as false now as it was when we first wrote about it.

For the record, we sought comment from Brandon Lepow, a White House spokesman, who confirmed in an email to FactCheck.org: “The ‘White House Christmas tree’ is still being called the ‘White House Christmas tree.’ ” Also, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, this year’s Christmas tree is “a beautiful 19-foot-tall balsam fir grown on a farm near Neshkoro, Wisc.,” by Sue and Tom Schroeder. The tree will be cut in late November and sent to Washington, where it is once again scheduled to be received by the White House and decorated by staff and volunteers.

Nothing has changed with regard to ornament policy at the White House, either. Every Christmas theme of the Bush administration was of a secular nature, and the Bush White House didn’t invite the same artists to create ornaments each year, as the email message suggests. As we noted back in 2009:

FactCheck.org, 2009: The tradition of secular ornaments goes back a long way. The earliest record of a Christmas tree in the White House is 1889, when President Benjamin Harrison “decorated a live tree with tinsel and popcorn,” according to the White House Historical Association.

The 2010 White House Christmas theme was “Simple Gifts.” The 2009 theme was “Reflect, Rejoice, Renew.” The 2011 theme has yet to be announced.

— Scott Blackburn

Update, Nov. 25 2011: The 2011 White House Christmas tree arrived on schedule the day after Thanksgiving, and was formally accepted by the first lady with full news coverage.

Update, Dec. 1: On Nov. 30, it was announced that the White House Christmas 2011 theme is “Shine, Give, Share.”


Lepow, Brandon, White House spokesman. Email to FactCheck.org. 9 Nov 2011.

National Christmas Tree Association. “White House Christmas Tree: 2011.” 3 Oct 2011.

Norton, Jerry. “Horse-drawn wagon delivers White House Christmas tree.” Reuters. 26 Nov 2010.

Skiba, Katherine. “Obamas deck the White House.” Chicago Tribune. 1 Dec 2010.

Shepherd, Shawna. “Michelle Obama previews White House’s holiday look.” CNN. 3 Dec 2009.