Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Sunday 19 September |
Our Lady of La Salette
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

The 300-year-old Nativity scene in the White House


Tom Bridge | CC BY ND 2.0

Zelda Caldwell - published on 11/29/18

The 22-piece Neapolitan crèche was a gift to Lady Bird Johnson.

According to tradition, every First Lady of the United has the honor of decorating the White House for Christmas, and this year Melania Trump made a bold statement with 29 red trees decorated with 14,000 ornaments lined up to greet visitors to the White House’s state rooms.

This striking display has somewhat overshadowed a more traditional decoration on display – an 18th-century Neapolitan Nativity scene.

Embed from Getty Images

The 300-year-old crèche was first loaned to the White House in 1961 by philanthropist Mrs. Charles W. Englehard, who helped then-First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy choose thematic decorations. The wood and terra cotta creche was purchased in Naples, Italy, and features 22 wooden figures, including a crowned baby Jesus. It was featured on President Kennedy’s 1963 Christmas card, which was never sent because of his assassination on November 22 of that year. In 1967 Mrs. Englehard made a permanent gift of the creche to Lady Bird Johnson for the White House’s annual “Pageant of Peace” Christmas display.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images


Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
Visalia CHURCH
J-P Mauro
The largest Catholic parish church in the US will soon be in Cali...
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.