The Holidays are a time for family and traditions. In the House of Representatives, Decembers have included celebrations surrounding the Capitol Christmas Tree mixed with hectic legislative sessions to conclude business so Members could return to their families. In rare instances, though, holiday tidings have been downright unhappy—such as Christmas Eve 1860, which coincided with the start of the secession of southern states that led to the Civil War.
Learn more about these and other historical happenings on Capitol Hill during the holiday season.
On December 24, 1963, the House of Representatives capped off one of the longest continuous sessions in congressional history on the eve of a national holiday. Following a pre-dawn start, the Christmas Eve proceedings ended with an impromptu White House Christmas party.Origins of the Capitol Christmas Tree
On December 24, 1913, thousands of people flocked to the U.S. Capitol to celebrate Washington’s first “community Christmas.” The centerpiece of the festivities, a 40-foot Norway spruce Christmas tree located on the East Front plaza of the U.S. Capitol, was adorned with red, white, and blue electric bulbs.The Secession of South Carolina
On December 24, 1860, the House received a letter announcing South Carolina’s secession from the Union. South Carolina Representatives John McQueen, Milledge Bonham, William Boyce, and John Ashmore authored the letter which declared that “the people of their State of South Carolina, in their sovereign capacity, have resumed the powers…delegated by the Federal Government of the United States, and have thereby dissolved our connection with the House of Representatives.”
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Sure, he was a Representative from South Carolina, the first U.S. Minister to Mexico, and a Secretary of War. But what is Representative Joel Roberts Poinsett really famous for? This time of year, the answer might be found in a nearby display of holiday decorations.
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This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.