Over the Christmas break we were discussing the holiday show Christmas at the White House. It was fun to see the finery and traditions over the years. But December 1963 was different, the White House was dark. After the JFK assassination President Johnson declared a month long period of mourning and the White House was shrouded in black with crepe draping the door ways and chandeliers.
On the morning of December 22, the black crepe was removed and replaced by holly, wreaths, and mistletoe. Later that evening, the Christmas tree was lit. Lady Bird Johnson later wrote, “I walked the well-lit hall for the first time with the sense that life was going to go on, that we as a country were going to begin again.”
The young man that I was talking to thought a month long period of mourning was an old-school custom and would not be done today. A month? Too long. Our attention span, he said. He was speaking for the 20-25 year old young professionals that he knew.
Most people prefer the light over the dark, especially in December. And I agree that we’ve moved past the Victorian custom of draping every mirror in the house. Now, it seems that black wreaths and bunting are used for Halloween decorations. Is the idea of hanging a black wreath on the door or some hanging black ribbons out of the question when a death has occurred? Inspiration comes from the from the black feather wreaths I’ve seen. The symbolism is subtle, tactile, and the black is dramatic. It never goes out of style.