The Rockefeller Archive Center
“If we assist the highest forms of education – in whatever field – we secure the widest influence in enlarging the boundaries of human knowledge.”
—John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
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Unpretentious Affairs

The Christmas holidays were unpretentious affairs for the Rockefeller family. As John D. Rockefeller, Jr. described them in a school essay, festivities included exchanging simple gifts, sleighing, and entertaining friends with dinners and games.

Read JDR Jr.'s 1885 school essay

Sleighing was a favorite winter pastime for JDR Jr., as illustrated by his 1892-1893 sleigh log. JDR Jr., his father, and his sisters Alta and Edith are among the party of sleighers pictured at Saranac Lake, New York in 1895.

Sleighing memories


No Holiday from Concern for Others

The family took no holiday from their concern for others. From the senior officers to the day laborers, members of the office and household staff were remembered with gifts, as illustrated by the 1904 house list.

View the 1904 house list

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller's 1920 letter to her sister, Lucy Aldrich, demonstrates that their thoughts at Christmastime extended worldwide.

Read the letter from Abby to her sister

A few days prior to Abby's letter, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. presented "A Christmas Message to Young Men" at the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church in New York.

View JDR, Jr.'s notes from his 1920 Christmas message


Christmas at the Casements

In the 1920s and 1930s, John D. Rockefeller spent the winters at The Casements, his home in Ormond Beach, Florida. The annual private Christmas parties that "Neighbor John" hosted, which included a visit from Santa Claus and gifts for the guests, were the highlight of the social season in Ormond Beach.

View photographs from Christmas parties at The Casements


The Rockefeller Center Christmas Celebration

The first Christmas celebration at Rockefeller Center was staged in 1933. Spearheaded by Nelson A. Rockefeller, the first celebration included a 50-ft. Christmas tree and a week-long series of events, complete with choral presentations, trumpeters, and a national NBC radio broadcast of mass public Christmas caroling from the tree site.

The event soon became a national tradition, as shown by the "The Most Beautiful Tree in the World" from the December 1954 issue of Family Circle, and a page from the script for the NBC telecast of the lighting of the tree in 1961.

View the Family Circle article and telecast transcript

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