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Flashback: Merry Christmas from the American presidents

The National Christmas Tree lights up the area Nov. 30 at the White House Ellipse in Washington, D.C. (Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)

During remarks at the White House last week, President Donald Trump declared: "We can say 'Merry Christmas' again.”

Trump, a critic of “Happy Holidays” as a seasonal greeting, vowed that stores would say “Merry Christmas” instead.

Culture wars aside, presidential Christmas greetings aren’t new to the White House. We took a look back at recent Christmas greetings offered by the American presidents.

Donald Trump

During a tree lighting ceremony outside the White House last month, Trump said, “From the earliest days of our nations, Americans have known Christmas as a time for prayer and worship, for gratitude and good will, for peace and renewal.”

“For Christians, this is a holy season,” he said. “The celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Christmas story begins 2,000 years ago with a mother, a father, their baby son, and the most extraordinary gift of all, the gift of God's love for all of humanity.”

“Whatever our beliefs, we know that the birth of Jesus Christ and the story of this incredible life forever changed the course of human history,” he continued. “There’s hardly an aspect of our lives today that His life has not touched: art, music, culture, law, and our respect for the sacred dignity of every person everywhere in the world. Each and every year at Christmastime we recognize that the real spirit of Christmas is not what we have, it's about who we are. Each one of us is a child of God.”

Barack Obama

In his final Christmas address from the White House last year, former President Barack Obama said, “on behalf of all the Obamas – Michelle, Malia, Sasha, Bo, and that troublemaker Sunny – Merry Christmas, everybody.”

He said that on Christmas, the family would “join our fellow Christians around the world to rejoice in the birth of our Savior. And as we retell His story from that Holy Night, we’ll also remember His eternal message, one of boundless love, compassion and hope.”

George W. Bush

In a radio message for his final Christmas in the White House, former President George W. Bush said Christmas “is a season of hope and joy, and it is an occasion to remember a humble birth that has helped shape the world for more than two thousand years.”

Bush encouraged Americans to “take time to remember the men and women of our armed forces.”

“With their incredible sacrifices, they preserve the peace and freedom that we celebrate during this season,” he said. “Regardless of where they are, our men and women in uniform and the families who support them remind us of a clear lesson: Defending freedom is a full-time job. Our enemies do not take holidays. So the members of our armed forces stand ready to protect our freedom at any hour. For their service, they have the thanks of a grateful nation — this Christmas and always.”

Bill Clinton

In his 1995 Christmas address, former President Bill Clinton said, “The Christmas story is dear and familiar to us all — shepherds and angels, Wise Men and King Herod, Mary and Joseph, and, at the heart of it all, a child.”

“This child was born into poverty in a city too crowded to offer Him shelter,” Clinton said. “He was sent to a region whose people had endured suffering, tyranny, and exile. And yet this child brought with him riches so great that they continue to sustain the human spirit two thousand years later: the assurance of God's love and presence in our lives and the promise of salvation.”

George H.W. Bush

In his 1990 Christmas message, former President George H.W. Bush said, "At Christmas, people of every age and every walk of life celebrate with a profound sense of wonder, joy, and gratitude our Savior's birth in Bethlehem.”

“Like the shepherds called from nearby fields and the Magi who journeyed from distant lands to welcome the Christ child, we are drawn to this miraculous event in history,” he said.

“Barbara joins me in wishing all of our fellow Americans a Merry Christmas. May this festive and holy season be filled with the warmth of family and friends and with the deep joy of knowing God's love for mankind through the gift of His Son. God bless you,” he added.

Ronald Reagan

Upon lighting the National Christmas Tree in 1982, former President Ronald Reagan said, “In this holiday season, we celebrate the birthday of one who, for almost 2,000 years, has been a greater influence on humankind than all the rulers, all the scholars, all the armies and all the navies that ever marched or sailed, all put together.”

“He brought to the world the simple message of peace on Earth, goodwill to all mankind,” he said. “Some celebrate the day as marking the birth of a great and good man, a wise teacher and prophet, and they do so sincerely. But for many of us, it's also a holy day, the birthday of the Prince of Peace, a day when "God so loved the world" that He sent us His only begotten son to assure forgiveness of our sins.”

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