Peek inside the Nixon White House by way of the Christmas cards on display at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda. These greetings--received by President and Mrs. Nixon from 1969 through 1973, the year before he resigned--provide insight into the quieter moments of this tumultuous presidency when our nation was divided over the Vietnam War and in the midst of Watergate.
The 100 cards on loan from the National Archives in Washington offer personal messages to the Nixons from heads of state--Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and Chinese Premier Chou En-lai--to the kings of comedy and entertainment of the time such as Jonathan Winters and Liberace.
"Mrs. Nixon loved Christmas," said Olivia S. Anastasiadis, the exhibit's curator. "We do this to honor that sentiment."
The cards--many of which were forwarded by diplomatic pouch or accompanied by telegrams detailing official delivery instructions and protocol--are arranged in five categories: formal, informal, humorous, religious and artistic.
Of note is a simple formal card from the president of the Republic of Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu, that was sent to Nixon during the throes of the war.
Some cards made political statements. At the time the United States and the Soviet Union were competing in a race to space, the Nixons received a card from USSR Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko that depicted a jewel-toned snow scene with a rocket ship lifting off from the slopes.
And to illustrate just what a small world it is, duplicate religious cards were sent by Eamon de Valera, who dominated Irish Republic politics from the 1930s through the 1960s, and Carl Karcher, founder of the Carl's Jr. hamburger chain.
In 1973--Nixon's last Christmas in the White House--Jonathan Winters wrote on a card he designed: "You're doing a great job--and have brought a lasting peace to the world! We think of you often. Both of you are in our prayers--not just during the holidays but daily."
Ginger Rogers' telegram that same year reads: "New Year's greetings and my sincere wishes for a joyous and fruitful 1974."
Also on display are thank-you notes to Nixon for wreaths he sent, a few of Nixon's chosen holiday cards, family ornaments, felt stockings hung in 1971 at Camp David and a Friendship Tree donned with ornaments from first ladies from Croatia, France, Korea as well as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Betty Ford and Barbara Bush.
"What a Card! Treasures From the Nixons' White House Mailbag," through Jan. 11 at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace, 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda. Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Library admission: $3.95 to $5.95; children ages 8 to 11, $2; younger than 7, free. Exhibit free with library admission. Free parking. (714) 993-5075.