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White House Christmas Trees, Ranked

The first White House Christmas party was held by President and First Lady Adams in 1800. Ever since that year, the White House has had the First Family's Christmas tree on display. Some are better than others. Here is my definitive ranking.

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14. 1894 Cleveland tree

The White House Historical Association / Via

Grover Cleveland's 1894 tree is the first use of electric bulbs on a White House Christmas tree. But that historic event doesn't compensate for the fact that this tree is incredibly tiny. Putting your baby Christmas tree on a side table doesn't make it look taller, it emphasizes it's insane tininess by proving it can be placed on a side table. Cleveland's tree also loses points for being surrounded by creepy 19th century dolls that I can only assume come to life when no one's in the room.

13. 1963 Johnson tree

Lyndon B. Johnson Library, Kevin Smith / Via

Don't get me wrong, I love a popcorn garland. But this was just not executed well. It should not look like you've TP'd your Christmas tree with cranberries and popped corn kernels. Also, I get ominous vibes from this picture. They couldn't have lit the tree so it didn't leave such a crazy shadow over half the room? And I know it's probably an even harder task, but they couldn't get LBJ to smile?

12. 1969 Nixon tree

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum / Via

This tree is incredibly 60s and I'm sure an incredible amount of effort went into it. That doesn't stop me from being incredibly disappointed. In fact, I'd say Tricia's bright blue dress overshadows the 19-foot fir. Terrible attempt at spreading apart the ornaments, and even worse use of gold garland. And can you believe Nixon chose a tree leaning that far left?

11. 1976 Ford tree

White House Photo Office / Via

I don't love the color scheme or overall shape of this tree. And get this - the theme of Betty Ford's 1976 Christmas tree was "The Love that is the Spirit of Christmas." So, the theme of the Christmas tree was Christmas. Thanks, Betty.

10. 1989 Bush tree


Barbara Bush chose the theme of "literacy" for the 1989 White House Christmas tree. The tree was decorated with tiny felt figures from children's literature, and tiny books. I like the red of the tree, and it has a good shape - unlike Barbara's dress.

9. 1903 Roosevelt tree


President Theodore Roosevelt, being the steadfast conservationist that he was, did not approve of cutting trees for Christmas decorations, and thus did not have one even though he had a lavish Christmas "carnival" in 1903. You are reading this correctly, I am stating outright that having no Christmas tree is better than the ones you've seen prior on this list.

8. 1977 Carter tree

White House Photo Office / Via

I love the whimsy I get from this tree. It's definitely full of the heart I appreciate in a White House Christmas tree. But this just goes to show that the actual tree itself is important. I can't help but wonder if miles of Christmas tree extend out of frame and into the clouds, where a bloodthirsty giant is listening to a harp that plays by itself.

7. 2015 Obama tree

Elaine Reyes / Via Twitter: @ElaineReyesTV

Michelle Obama's 2015 Christmas tree theme was supporting the troops. But in making the tree all red, white, and blue, they covered up all the green. I also don't love the ornaments themselves - they're too small, plain, and cheap-looking for a Blue Room Christmas tree. I know the First Family likely stopped actually decorating their own tree long ago, but this one really doesn't have any of the personal touch I like to see in a White House Christmas tree.

6. 1995 Clinton tree

White House Photo Office / Via

First Lady Hillary Clinton's 1995 tree theme was "Winter Wonderland" and channelled winter activities like sledding, making gingerbread houses, and playing in the snow. Good overall shape and an excellent use of what appears to be a handmade tree skirt.

5. 1986 Reagan tree

White House Photo Office / Via

You know when you see a really cool cake on Pinterest or Cake Wars and you think you can copy it, but it ends up all lopsided and sloppy and overdone but you still get the idea of what you were going for? That's my initial reaction to this tree. But with that sloppiness comes a sweetness I appreciate.

4. 2009 Obama tree

The Official White House Photostream / Via

This is the 2009 White House Christmas tree, with the theme "Reflect, Rejoice, Renew." The tree is covered with handmade ornaments that represent different states and national landmarks, but it also used 800+ ornaments from previous administrations. I had to give Michelle another chance. And she pulled through!

3. 2002 Bush tree

Eric Draper / White House Photo Office / Via

Keeping with the theme of themes, Laura Bush's second tree theme was "All Creatures Grand and Small," to show her love of pets and the indigenous animals of the US. From here, it seems like most of those animals are birds, but I guess it'd be hard to get a model of an opossum or the flathead catfish on there. With no bare space, a cohesive theme, and a coordinated color palette, this is far from the worst tree on the list.

2. 1970 Nixon pets' tree

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum / Via

It's undecorated, 5 feet tall, and surrounded by dead grass and leaves. And yet my heart lights up looking at it! Can't believe these pups have their own Christmas tree, and that they were such good boys and girls that Santa left them presents underneath it! Pictured L-R are King Timahoe the Irish Setter, Vicky the Poodle, and Pasha the Yorkshire Terrier. I bet the big gold present is for Pasha, that little scamp.

1. 1961 Kennedy tree

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library / Via

Jackie was the first First Lady to pick a theme for the White House Christmas tree, and it's been a tradition ever since. There's nothing quite like the original, though! This is the huge "Nutcracker Suite" themed 1961 tree. Mwah! Just looking at this impeccable tree I feel like I'm engaging in a choreographed battle with the mouse king. Brava, Jackie.

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