Although most people probably just marvel at each ornament’s beauty, there’s actually an underlying point to every one. With subsequent ornaments, the WHHA began a theme of commemorating each presidential administration in chronological order, with “occasional pauses in the chronological march to recognize White House anniversaries,” Anderson says. For example, the 1989 ornament commemorates the bicentennial of the presidency.

Indeed, the WHHA decided early on that every ornament must be directly related to the White House and should also serve an educational purpose. Every ornament comes with a booklet which explains how the ornament design relates to either a specific presidency or event.

With every passing ornament, sales increased, Anderson says, leading to the hiring of temporary employees to get the orders out. “Longtime employees and customers still remember the long lines that wrapped around the block and stretched down H Street despite rain and snow. When inventory temporarily ran out, as it often did in the weeks before Christmas, determined customers often chose to wait in line for hours until the next delivery truck arrived,” she recalls.

Fortunately, long lines are no longer necessary, as times have changed quite a lot since the first ornaments went on sale. Now, people have the internet to turn to and often don’t have to leave their homes to make the purchase. In fact, many retail establishments stock the ornaments for sale, as do federal offices like the U.S. Postal Service.

Ornament sales serve to fund the WHHA, a nonprofit organization that works to “enhance the understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the historic White House,” says Anderson. “Since the mid-1980s income from ornament sales has played a significant role in funding the Association’s mission.” She adds that around 1 million ornaments are sold each year. They retail currently for $24.95 each.

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