WEIRDLAND: Merry Christmas in The House of Kennedy

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Merry Christmas in The House of Kennedy

1960: John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy receive an early Christmas present. The President-elect and his wife Jackie Kennedy welcomed their second child, John F. Kennedy Jr., at the start of the holiday season on November 25. The couple returned to their Georgetown residence with their newborn son on December 10, 1960. 

In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree. She decorated a tree placed in the oval Blue Room with ornamental toys, birds and angels modeled after Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker" ballet. Mrs. Kennedy reused these ornaments in 1962 for her children's theme tree. Set up in the North Entrance, this festive tree also featured brightly wrapped packages, candy canes, gingerbread cookies and straw ornaments made by disabled or senior citizen craftspeople throughout the US. 

Jackie Kennedy shows off the Christmas seals. In 1962, the First Lady posed with the Postal Service's Christmas seals. The limited edition stamps were sold around the holidays to raise money for charity. The First Lady stayed at the famous Carlyle hotel during her shopping trip.

1962: The Kennedys spend Christmas morning with the Radziwills. The Kennedy family was joined by Jackie's sister, Lee Radziwill, and her family at the White House in 1962. Here, the extended family gathering looks like your typical Christmas celebration. John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy were busy opening their Christmas stockings while still in their pajamas on Christmas morning.

1965: Robert Francis Kennedy plays Santa in New York City. New York Senator Robert Kennedy accompanied his sister-in-law, Jackie Kennedy, to the Bronx community Christmas party in 1965 and handed out presents to the children. 

Aged 42, Robert Kennedy was shot and killed after winning the Democratic primary in California in June 1968. In an interview, John Lewis said: “I remember I just started crying and the next day I got up and I travelled to Atlanta; I think I cried all the way from Los Angeles to Atlanta. It was a dark, dark period.” Lewis, 78, who had joined Kennedy’s campaign for the Democratic nomination, remains convinced that he would have gone on to win the 1968 presidential election, where Republican Richard Nixon eventually prevailed. I got to know Robert Kennedy during the spring and summer of 1963. Lewis recalls: “Robert Kennedy was just a wonderful human being, a wonderful man. He had a great sense of humor, and he came across with the sense that he really believed, he had this great sense of passion, and I identified with that. When I was chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, better known as SNCC, at some of our meetings, we would have little skits. During the midst of the Freedom Rides, President Kennedy and Robert Kennedy became fully committed to the cause of civil rights. Bobby Kennedy tried his best. I saw this man grow, and during that time he had a tremendous influence on his brother, the President. When we heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated, we all cried. I cried because I felt I lost not just my President, but someone who was so inspiring to me, and such a wonderful human being. My organization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, was to hold a meeting in D.C. the weekend of President Kennedy’s funeral at Arlington Cemetery. Sadly, many couldn't attend. The presidency was truly in Bobby's bag had he lived, it really makes me sad to think of what could've been. After the Kennedy brothers' deaths, I think something died in America, and something died within all of us really. We probably would never, ever, live the way we lived again, because these men had so much to offer, not just to America and not just to the American people, but to the world community. I feel even today that we were robbed of something, denied something, because of their untimely deaths.” Source:

An all-grown-up JFK Jr. commutes in New York City during the holiday season, December 1993.

Fashion designer Susan Erneta: In 1993, I was 21 and living in New York City where I had just moved from Massachusetts. As a young girl dreaming of working in the fashion industry, I felt so lucky to land an internship with Fern Mallis of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. The CFDA was responsible for staging the runway shows in Bryant Park and it as the first year it had been done there.I was at the tents with Fern for a late night rehearsal one night with Mr. Calvin Klein. He was running this rehearsal with his new muse Kate Moss. All of the publicists were chic and good looking but there was one that stood out. She was so effortlessly gorgeous, blonde, and stylish and I remember thinking 'Why is she not on that runway?' She was classy and stunning and she had on the sickest outfit that I can still picture to this day. She was wearing a floor-length sweeping velvet skirt, black Adidas sneakers and a chunky black oversized turtleneck sweater.I attempted to emulate that outfit 1000 different ways and I often wondered who that amazingly stylish girl was. About a year later, I read that JFK Jr. had started dating a beautiful blonde, how a middle class girl whisked him away, and I was not surprised when I saw her face in the tabloids. It was the girl who worked for Calvin Klein! Carolyn Bessette took the Jackie's torch and she had a similar style of elegance. 

I knew John Jr. had dated a few models in the early 90s, one of them my friend Jennifer Kusner. In an article for Glamour magazine in 1999, they cover the time of his 30th birthday (1990), when he was dating my close friend Jenny, who was described in the article as a "good-looking, ginger-haired model". Jenny frequently threw dinner parties at her Manhattan townhouse. At one such event, John carried the evening with all his charm and reserve. There was something about him, observed writer Karen Duffy (a former Coney Island Mermaid Queen, chosen one of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" in 1993), "that tacitly asked for a bit of distance and respect." Despite his stunning looks, John Jr. was not an easy man or given to frivolous adventures, so that says a lot of Carolyn Bessette's formidable character to conquer him. The funny thing it was John who was stalking Carolyn. It was him who had some friends spying on her at nightclubs, and reporting back to John. He frequently asked his friends with connections to the fashion world about her. Source:

Across decades and generations, the Kennedys have occupied a unique place in the American imagination: charmed, cursed, at once familiar and unknowable. The House of Kennedy (2020) by James Patterson, tries to shed light on the dual family motto: "To whom much is given, much is expected" and they did—but at a high price. James Patterson: Joe Kennedy Sr. and his wife Rose demanded that everybody in the family do the best they can be, be the best they could be, strive for something better and bigger and higher. And that's hard to live up to. They all had to strive to be as good as they could be and take risks. If I wrote an outline for a novel and if I had the things happen to a family that happened to this one, I think my publisher Little Brown would say, "This is silly. All of this couldn't possibly happen to one family." One of the things that drove me to write the book is I just felt that this is the great American family story because the characters are so vibrant and interesting. It covers a period from the Depression right through to present day. TV producer Barbara Hall wants to turn this into one of those series like "The Crown," so this would be like the American "Crown." I loved "The Crown," but these people were a lot more interesting really than Queen Elizabeth. The culture inside the family is more interesting than the royal family. One great anecdote was the notion of this patriarch, Joe Kennedy Sr., and he's had a stroke and he's in this bedroom up in Hyannis Port [Massachusetts] and he's really cold, but he can't communicate to anybody. And finally he communicates to a niece that he's cold, and she goes rummaging around the bedroom and finds this flag and covers him with this flag. I'm sure he recognized it was the flag that had covered the coffin of his son John F. Kennedy. There are a lot of incidents like that. The fact that when JFK was president, he would call up Judy Garland more than once and ask her to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" over the phone. Or the fact of Bobby literally saving his son from drowning and then that night being assassinated. Source:

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