A history of Halloween at the White House


Halloween came early to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this year.

On Monday, President Trump was joined by first lady Melania to host trick or treaters at the White House for an early holiday celebration -- just a few days before the House is scheduled to vote on the Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

Halloween has been a fun family-filled tradition hosted by various presidents over the past six decades, since the Eisenhower era. And while the holiday has been particularly central for presidents with young children -- the Kennedys, Obamas, the Carters to name a few -- many of the past presidents put their own spin on the holiday celebrations!

Keep on reading to see how the White House tradition has evolved over the years.


First lady Mamie Eisenhower was the first to welcome Halloween into the White House with a private lunch for the wives of staff members in 1958. “She decorated for every holiday," explained White House Historical Historian's William Bushong to the Washingtonian. "Any reason to decorate, and she would decorate.” The first lady pulled out all the stops to get the State Dining Room ready for the holiday by stringing skeletons from the wall lights and scattering yellow jack-o'-lanterns, pumpkins and red apples around the banquet room.

President Kennedy laughs with his children Caroline and John Jr., both dressed in costumes, in the Oval Office of the White House in 1963 (Getty)


John Eisenhower was in his 30's during his father's administration, but the arrival of President Kennedy and his young family at the White House in 1961 was followed with bigger, more family-centric holiday celebrations. Sweet photos taken during the administration show a costume-clad John Jr. and young Caroline surprising their father in the Oval Office. The family also started the tradition of hosting trick-or-treaters at private Halloween parties thrown by the White House for friends and the families of staff members.

Interviews with the Kennedy family also revealed that Jackie had attempted to secretly go trick-or-treating with her children around the neighborhood.

"As much as possible, Jackie wanted her children to have the experience of typical American children. So, one Halloween, she decided that we would dress up and take them trick-or-treating around Washington, D.C.," said JFK's sister Jean Kennedy Smith in an interview many years ago.

"We made it through several houses anonymously until someone spotted the Secret Service and our cover was blown. Still we and, most importantly the children, had a marvelous time."

Second Lady Patricia Nixon and her daughters in homemade Halloween costumes in 1954 (Getty)


During Nixon's term as vice president, his wife Pat strived to ensure their daughters Tricia and Julie's childhoods were met with as much normalcy as possible, and was even spotted dressing both daughters in homemade Halloween costumes in 1954. While traveling across the country for the midterm election in 1958, the couple decorated their chartered plane for the holiday and handed out face masks to stewardesses so the children could continue their celebrations.

According to White House History, President Nixon and Pat were the first couple to truly open up the White House for Halloween, inviting 250 children and their parents from the Widening Horizons program for a Halloween party in 1969. A 17-foot pumpkin greeted the children at the entrance, as did witches stirring cauldrons, magicians, puppeteers and apple bobbers. Although the first lady was not in attendance due to the flu, she did host trick-or-treaters for the first and only time at Camp David in 1971.

First lady Betty Ford greets costumed school children from the Washington area Thursday, Oct. 31, 1974 during a Halloween benefit for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund on the White House South Lawn. Mrs. Ford gave each of the children a bag of trick-or-treat candy, an apple, and reached into her pocket to put a quarter coin into the UNICEF collection boxes they carried. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin)

President Jimmy Carter and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter stand by as daughter Amy and some of her friends carve pumpkins during Amy’s 10th birthday party Wednesday, Oct. 19, 1977, in the White House in Washington. Amy is seated directly in front of the President. (AP Photo)


Carter's daughter, Amy, celebrated her 10th birthday at the White House with a Halloween-themed pumpkin carving party. The 1977 get together, which was joined by her father and the first lady, was also met with birthday cake and a showing of the original version of "Frankenstein" in the White House theater.

The first couple also hosted a variety of Halloween-themed events during their tenure in the White House. In 1978, they threw a party for 600 White House staffers and their families, which was attended by Broadway star Carol Channing.

President Bush and first lady Barbara at a Halloween celebration in 1989 (Getty)


To mark Bush's first year in the White House, the president and first lady hosted a Halloween party for nearly 600 children on the South Lawn.

He joked with the kids about the White House's haunted history: "How many of you guys believe in ghosts? How many? You know, they say that there's a ghost in this old house. And the most famous one, you know, is Abraham Lincoln. And Barbara and I haven't seen the ghost of Abraham Lincoln walking the halls, but this is our first Halloween in the White House, so maybe we'll see him tonight."


First lady Hillary Clinton's birthday on Oct. 26th was frequently met with a joint Halloween birthday bash by the couple. In 1993, the Clintons dressed up as James and Dolley Madison for the party. According to Bushong, the couple also dressed up as characters from "Grease."

“I think just from the photographs you get a sense that they really enjoyed that sort of thing,” he said.

President Bush poses with some local children, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2002, who were visiting the White House dressed up for Halloween. Bush was on his way to South Dakota, Indiana, and West Virginia to campaign for local candidates. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)


The president is best known for dressing up their pets Miss Beazley, Barney, and India in costumes for both Halloween and Christmas.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet parents, trick-or-treaters and local school children at the north portico of the White House during a Halloween celebration on October 31, 2009 in Washington, DC. The Obamas are celebrating their first Halloween in the White House by inviting students and military families over for the holiday. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images)


The Obamas were known for their elaborately themed Halloween parties that they threw for both children and military families alike. It was estimated that more than 2,600 children had attended their 2009 party, where they were greeted by the smiling first couple and treated to "Alice in Wonderland" themed food. First lady Michelle Obama dressed as a cat for the occasion, but in the subsequent years, opted for orange-themed looks.

Although the 2012 Halloween celebrations were canceled due to Hurricane Sandy, the Obamas made up for it by releasing what is still one of the most iconic photos from his administration.

US President Donald Trump meets with children of members of the press for Halloween in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 27, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski)


For President Trump's first year in office, he kicked off the holiday by hosting reporters' children in the Oval Offic with candy. Three days later, he and Melania welcomed trick-or-treaters to the White House South Lawn for another celebration.

The first couple spent 40 minutes greeting children dressed as cowboys, unicorns and Winnie the Poo for their 2019 event, which was held early to accommodate the impeachment inquiry vote. The biggest moment of the night involved a viral moment shared between a child dressed as a minion and Trump, who placed the child's candy bar on his head.

See more of this year's celebrations in the White House in the video above.