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Theodore Roosevelt’s Christmas


There have been no American presidents like Theodore Roosevelt for creating volumes of books and other written musings about nature, patriotism, family , the American West, and nearly countless other subjects.

TR was known for devouring books throughout his life. He was a spirited and beloved father to his five children and an adventurer that was as comfortable in a saddle in Medora, Dakota Territory as he was in Washington DC or mingling with the royalty or common folks from around the world. 

It is no wonder that Roosevelt would regard Christmas celebrations in the home as durable displays of joy for all ages. Christmas itself at TR’s lifetime did not have the production values or traditions commonly practiced today. 

Recalling incidents of his youth, TR looked backward fondly to this week in 1913 at boyhood recollections of Christmas Day.

TR’S WORDS: Christmas was an occasion of literally delirious joy. In the evening we hung up our stockings-or rather the biggest stocking we could borrow from the grown-ups-and before dawn we trooped in to open them while sitting on father and mother’s bed. The bigger presents were arranged, those for each child on its own table, in the drawing room, the doors to which were thrown open after breakfast. 

I never knew anyone else have what seemed to me such attractive Christmases. In the next generation I tried to reproduce them exactly for my own children.”

During TR’s life time, Christmas trees were present in some homes, but not the norm as they are  today with Christmas celebrants. Most Roosevelt Christmas celebrations in the White House were treeless as they had been for most presidents.  America formally created Christmas an official holiday in 1870.

Another remembrance of the Yuletide was written by TR in this letter to his sister Corinne  shortly after Christmas Day in 1903. “I wonder whether there ever can come in life a thrill of greater exaltation and rapture than that which comes to one between the ages of say, six and fourteen, when the library door is thrown open and you walk in to see all the gifts, like a materialized fairyland, arrayed on your special table?”

TR the adult remained a devoted family man, yet never seemed to give up a romantic nostalgist streak concerning his childhood. The child in the old Roughrider and Dakota buckaroo always hung on to Christmas. 

Dakota Datebook written by Steve Stark

Source: Theodore Roosevelt Cyclopedia

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