Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Hail to the (C)hanukkah

Since last night was the first night of Hanukkah, we should inject some Hanukkah spirit into our presidential tournament of death blog. So here we have eight fun fact about Hanukkah in the White House.

1) While visiting the White House in 1951, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion presented a Hanukkah menorah to Harry Truman and the people of the United States. Truman seemed to have made no other mention to the holiday.
2) The first time the holiday was officially acknowledged in the White House was 1979, when Jimmy Carter lit the National Menorah at Lafayette Park. So, I guess you can say presidents were a little late to the party.
Between Carter's obvious discomfort, and the rather... lackluster (and strangely glassed off) menorah, this has obviously come a long way.
3) Bill Clinton was joined by several children when he hosted the first menorah lighting in the White House. One girl's ponytail started to smoke when it touched a flame. Clinton snuff the smoke out with his hands. We can't find video of it, but it was pretty amusing.
There aren't any pictures of it either, apparently.
4) Presidential knowledge of Hannukah, on the other hand, goes back a ways. According to one story, then-general George Washington learned about Hanukkah in 1777 while walking among his troops camped at Valley Forge. He noticed one soldier by himself near two small flames. Washington asked the soldier what he was doing and the soldier told him the story of Hanukkah. The soldier said that he believed that God was looking out for the Continental Army, just like He did with the Maccabees. Washington remembered this story when he was visiting a Jewish merchant the following year during Hanukkah.

5) The first night of Hanukkah happened to fall on Christmas Eve that year. So, while the story mentions Hanukkah, there's no mention of Christmas Eve being celebrated by anyone in the Continental Army. Be sure to pass that tidbit around to the next person who tells you that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation.
Also, this.
6) Speaking of examples of how people who think Christmas is an American tradition are wrong: In 1899, William McKinley received several letters urging him to forgo getting a Christmas tree for the White House, as it was seen as "un-American" because it was a German tradition. Not like it was that big of a deal since the White House didn't do the whole Christmas tree thing back then anyway. Again, just sayin'.

7) George W. Bush hosted the first White House Hanukkah party, and the event seemed to have gotten bigger every year during his term. In 2005, he started the practice of making sure the White House kitchen was kosher.
And when we say it's gotten bigger... we ain't kidding.
8) Barack Obama has made the Hanukkah party a smaller event. However, he was the first person to make the Hanukkah address in English and in Hebrew.
According to the English-to-Hebrew translator we found, "Let me be clear" translates as "הרשו לי להיות ברור"
Hmm, so it looks like we weren't able to keep Christmas out of our post about Hanukkah. Considering stores deck the halls with Christmas spirit as the Halloween candy runs low, limiting it to two mentions of Christmas is actually pretty impressive. We even limited those two facts to the two nights where Christmas Eve and Christmas happen to fall.

Even though it's the holiday season, the Arena remains open. If you haven't already, vote in our fight between Idiocracy's President Camacho and JFK.

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