Back in the 1980s, I first became involved in the issue of the Christian foundations in the United States from reading two books, The Separation of Church and State by Robert L. Cord and The Myth of Separation by David Barton (a book I believe is now out of print). While I haven't seen much further out of Robert Cord other than some Political Science textbooks, David Barton has gone on to expand on his original book in creating Wallbuilders, an organization dedicated to publicizing information demonstrating our nation's clear Christian roots.
In the spirit of the Christmas season, David Barton and Wallbuilders have just published a very interesting article entitled Christmas with the Presidents in which he reviews the way in which Presidents of the United States have recognized the holidays -- including a surprising number of items that demonstrate the faith and devotion of various Presidents to Christ.
Naturally, the details of the celebrations of the first few presidents are pretty slim since the Presidency was not then the subject to the intensive press coverage as it is today. Still, there is evidence of the White House using the day of Christmas to promote charity as far back as the administration of Abraham Lincoln. However, the real ties between Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus seem to increase beginning with the administration of Teddy Roosevelt. According to the article:
The Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt family Christmas traditions were quite simple. On Christmas Eve, they would pile into the family sleigh (later the motor car) and travel to Christ Church in Oyster Bay, New York. Following the pastor’s sermon, TR would deliver one of his famous “sermonettes” on the meaning of the holiday. The service would close with one of his favorite hymns “Christmas By the Sea.”
The article is a fun read as we head into the holidays. But perhaps the most compelling statement regarding the Presidents and Christmas isn't found in the article at all, but rather on the front page of the Wallbuilders site where President John Quincy Adams apparently stated or penned:
[I]n the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissoluably linked to the birthday of the Savior.