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.
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.