Celebrating Christmas with the Eisenhowers at Gettysburg

Any time of year, the historic Eisenhower Home and Farm in Gettysburg draws thousands of visitors.  But this time of year, there is something special to see.

“You can learn about Eisenhower’s life and work,” said supervisory historian Carol Hegeman, “but you can also learn a little bit extra this time of year about their Christmas tradition.”

From now through December 31, visitors to the home can get a close up look at how President and Mrs. Eisenhower decorated their personal residence for Christmas.

“J. B. West, who was chief usher at the White House, used to say ‘Mamie decked the halls with more than holly.’ ” explained Hegeman.

“Even the Christmas decorations are reminiscent of that 1950s time period,” Hegeman told a small group of tourists.  “The living room Christmas tree has larger light bulbs, not the small twinkle lights used today.”

And, just a few miles away at the Gettysburg National Military Park, holiday visitors, for the first time in 15 years,  can view three newly conserved  nativity dioramas that the Eisenhowers displayed in the White House during the Christmas season.

Before leaving the White House in 1961, Mrs. Eisenhower presented the dioramas to the Gettysburg Presbyterian Church where they were displayed until 1994. Eventually, the dioramas became the property of the Eisenhower National Historic Site.

Gettysburg Foundation marketing director Cindy Small says the dioramas offer a fairly private aspect of the Eisenhower White House.

“What is so special about this particular nativity diorama is that it gives us a look inside the life of a president and his wife and how they celebrated the holidays,” said Small.


Visitors Hours: Contact Eisenhower National Historic Site  (717) 338-9114, www.nps.gov/eise

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