Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas 1941

This is a re post of the story of the best Christmas card I ever received......

This morning I was reading Winston Churchill's book "The Gathering Storm" and I remembered a Christmas card our daughter sent us in 2006. I searched for the card and found it placed inside of William Manchester's biography of Churchill on a shelf in our dinning room. The card is my favorite all time Christmas card and for Christmas I put it out on the self next to my Winston Churchill statute. I wrote about it on this blog in 2006 as follows:

This year our daughter, who lives in Washington DC, sent us one of the best Christmas cards we have ever received. It is a painting of "The White House Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.... December 1941." The card was produced by the White House Historical Association. The painting on the front of the card is of Christmas Eve 1941 just weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entry into World War II. The Christmas trees is shown in front of the White House and on the portico speaking to the crowd is FDR and Winston Churchill. Churchill had come to Washington DC to coordinate the war effort with FDR and was staying with Roosevelt at the White House.

There is a lot of detail of Churchill's visit in the new book "Franklin and Winston, an Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship" by Jon Meacham managing editor of Newsweek and is a very good read. An interesting passage from the book:

The prime minister's hours kept Roosevelt up later than he was accustomed to. Churchill would wander into the President's bedroom at any hour if he had something to talk over..... The late-night conversations were fueled by war and drink... Winston... ate and thoroughly enjoyed, more food than any two men or three diplomats;and he consumed brandy and Scotch with a grace and enthusiasm that left us all open mouthed in awe....

That night they spoke to the crowd in front of the White House and to the nation on the radio. Jon Meacham described the night as follows:

There was a vast crowd, the voices drifted across the keen night air, the carols--old and yet for ever new--were sung in an atmosphere mellowed by the lights and the shadows... the voices of the President and the Prime Minister rang out with a message of hope and courage...Roosevelt introduced Churchill as "My associate, my old and good friend"

Churchill said:

I spend this anniversary and festival far from home....Here in the midst of war, raging and roaring over all the lands and seas, creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, here, amid all the tumult,we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and every generous heart. Therefore we may cast aside for this night at least the cares and dangers which beset us, and make for the children an evening of happiness in a world of storm. Here, then for one night only, each home through out the English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.... Let the children have their night of fun and laughter... before we turn to the stern tasks and formidable year that lie before us. Resolve that by our sacrifice and daring these children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world

According to Meacham, Eleanor Roosevelt had been worried that FDR would have a bad Christmas because it was the first Christmas after his mothers death but the influx of guests and increasing work made it practically impossible for him to think too much about any personal sorrow.

Churchill had heart palpitations during the ceremony and Churchill was sad to be apart from his wife Clementine at Christmas.

After that momentous night a Christmas Tree would not be lit again on the White House grounds for the duration of the war.

The Christmas Card out daughter sent us is one I will aways treasure....... If you look closely you will See FDR and Churchill. Thanks, Marry Christmas.