On Opening Presents Early

“Christmas was a sacrament observed with the exchange of gifts, when the stockings were hung, and the spruce tree was lighted in the symbol of Christian faith and love. While there was plenty of hard work, there was no lack of pleasurable diversion” (Calvin Coolidge, The Autobiography, p.30).

It was on this day eighty-eight years ago that the President’s eagerness for Christmas overcame his usual self-restraint. Though the Chief of Mails, Ira Smith, would not have said anything, it seems someone did — and told the newspapers. The next day, the story recounted that Coolidge not only ignored the “Don’t Open Until Christmas” injunction but, as was his custom, returned from his morning walk to visit the mail room for any “mails” that had come in for him. The story recounts that upon looking over the packages due to be sent to the White House, he saw two items with handwriting he recognized. Breaking into them, he was contented to see what each contained and could then go about the day’s work.

Biographers have noted Coolidge’s proclivity for sweets and snacks, the President regularly appearing in the White House kitchen or the Mail Room in order to investigate firsthand what was there: be it fruits and nuts, jams and pastries, anything from which he could munch. As he said in The Autobiography, “Almost everything than can be eaten comes. We always know what to do with that” (p.222).

It was as President Coolidge prepared to leave Washington for Christmas in 1928, exemplifying an exceptionally jovial spirit, that he informed the press he would be leaving on “Christmas Day, December 24.” When the room broke out in laughter, he followed with, “When is Christmas?” One of the journalists, completely unacquainted with his subject’s dry wit, answered seriously that the 24th was Christmas Eve. Coolidge, without skipping a beat, responded with a smile: “Well, I always tried to have Christmas on two days, the 24th and 25th, when I was a boy.”


One thought on “On Opening Presents Early

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