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Christmas with Gettysburg’s First Family

By Carl Whitehill – In many ways, the Gettysburg home of Dwight and Mamie Eisenhower isn’t much different than that of you and I. The Eisenhowers were known to be rather modest with their home, even as the 34th President and family celebrated the holiday season every year.

Staff at the Eisenhower National Historic Site (ENHS) let us in on a few of the holiday traditions of Gettysburg’s first family – from the decorations to the guests that would visit the presidential retreat during the season.

Even though the Eisenhower couple planned to spend their first Christmas holiday in 1955, Ike was quickly called back into service as the leader of NATO forces in France, and then as President of the United States. It wouldn’t be for many years later that the family would spend time in Gettysburg in their “retirement home.”

At times, the family would celebrate Christmas elsewhere – either at the White House or in warmer places – but nonetheless, the home was always decorated for the season. Today, staff at the ENHS enjoy their own holiday tradition of setting up the decorations in the presidential home and telling stories to people from around the world who visit the home during the holiday season.

Destination Gettysburg captured the heart of the Eisenhower’s holiday season through a series of photographs that range from modest – and familiar – Christmas tree of the 50s and 60s to the formal china set that is set for the couple and six guests in the family dining room.

About the Author: A resident of Adams County, Pa., for eight years, Carl is still finding nooks and crannies of the Gettysburg countryside to tire out his two young – and energetic – boys. Always on the search for ways to keep his crazy family active and adventurous, Carl prefers to lace up his hiking boots over firing up the car for a ride, but opts for going out for ice cream over a cold beer any day. He lives in Littlestown, Pa., with his wife, Kim, and sons – Colin and Christian. – See more at:

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