- The Washington Times - Monday, December 9, 2002

There's something for just about every faith at the White House this holiday season.
During the course of 24 hours last week, President Bush helped light a menorah for Hanukkah and the national Christmas tree, and visited a mosque at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The effort is as much about not offending as about including.
The official cards from the president and first lady do not mention Christmas. Little about its cover painting of a Franklin Roosevelt-era Steinway piano in the White House's grand foyer, save red draperies and flowers, calls the holiday to mind. One recipient even mistook it, especially given the card's early arrival, for a Thanksgiving greeting.
And what could be more secular than the White House holiday decorations theme: a history of presidential pets?
The president has no plans for anything more than a written proclamation of Kwanzaa, the historical and cultural holiday that celebrates traditional African values and begins Dec. 26.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the president cannot put every holiday on his schedule and that he tried to focus on the ones representing most Americans.
"You do reach a point where you can reach so far into America's cultural richness that you can dilute the events," Mr. Fleischer said.
The Bushes' holiday card includes a verse from the 100th Psalm praising God: "For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting and his truth endureth to all generations."
As usual, a large creche of 18th-century Italian terra cotta and carved wooden figures fills an East Room alcove. The only obvious religious symbol among the White House's gilded red-and-gold holiday decor, the creche depicts the manger scene at Jesus' birth. Few Americans will see it, because public tours of the house have been curtailed since the September 11 attacks.
Formal party invitations ask guests to a "Christmas reception."
Mr. Bush was reared Presbyterian, became Episcopalian and is now United Methodist, the denomination of his wife, Laura. The importance of his faith is a main reason for his celebration of other religious observances, Mr. Fleischer said.
"It is a real, visible manifestation of the president teaching the importance of tolerance and openness and celebrating faith," Mr. Fleischer said. "The purpose is not to preach a particular faith. The purpose is to celebrate faith itself."
On Wednesday night, Mr. Bush presided over a simple ceremony for the Jewish Festival of Lights by lighting candles on a donated menorah in the ground-floor Bookseller's Lobby. Hanukkah has taken on added importance because it allows Jews to recognize their faith at a time of year when Christianity is omnipresent.
By midday Thursday, the president was in a Washington mosque on the occasion of the Muslim feast of Eid Al Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. Inside the building, Mr. Bush paid tribute to Ramadan's emphasis on charity and tolerance.

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