Stateline Story

Season's Greetings

  • December 21, 2006
  • By Eric Kelderman
Click here to see this card, painted by Gov. Schwarzenegger, and other cards from governors across the country.

Governors spiced up their annual greeting cards with a mix of sacred and secular themes, personalizing holiday messages with family recipes, Bible verses and even some original artwork.

Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), who paints as a hobby, continued his tradition of rendering a painting for his card. This year he crafted the portrait "Afghan Girl," inspired by a photo from his March visit to Afghanistan's war-torn Shomali Plains region.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) also broke out his paint brushes to create the Christmas tree image on his card — similar to the festive fir he painted for his 2005 card.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who is leaving office after 10 years and mulling a White House bid, wrote "Farewell Arkansas" on the inside of his elaborate holiday missive. His card includes a family picture, a short New Testament passage and a detachable recipe for green bean bundles. The recipe from the famously health-conscious governor requires a pound of bacon and a cup of brown sugar.

Some governors also got creative with what has become standard holiday card fare - pictures of family and pets. Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), her family and their dog grace the Michigan Democrats' holiday card, sporting mittens — Michiganders' common symbol for the state's geography. The governor uses a second hand to show the Upper Peninsula and her dog holds a mitten in his mouth.

Politician's holiday cards have rarely been more than novel souvenirs for supporters, staff and state workers who often receive them. But last year, President Bush's card — featuring a snow-draped White House with no holiday bunting — was drubbed by conservative activists who claimed the president gave in to political correctness by failing to mention Christmas.

Although last winter's holiday hoopla has largely melted away, Bush's 2006 card has hardly changed. This year, the White House card contains a quote from the Bible and wishes recipients " the light of this season shine bright in your heart now and in the new year."

Many governors' cards also eschew "Merry Christmas," but include some reference to either the religious or more secular aspects of the holidays.

Gov. Bob Riley's (R) greeting card features a Gilbert Stuart portrait of the Alabama Territory's first governor on the front. But the "Governor" mentioned in the card's message refers to the prophecy of Christ's birth: "Out of [Juda] shall come a Governor that shall rule my people Israel," the card quotes from the New Testament book of Matthew.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), who is Jewish, is seated next to his wife Midge and the couple's pair of golden retrievers near a fireplace hearth, complete with "stockings hung by the chimney." The message inside says: "May the peace that marks the season, be a force for change in the world."

A simple wreath is the only hint of what holiday Maryland's Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley is referring to when he wishes readers "joy, hope and happiness."

Not all of this year's holiday cards were free of controversy. Bredesen's greeting caused a minor dust-up with its depiction of a Muslim girl and some state newspapers wrote stories on the negative reactions.

The Tennessee governor anticipated that there might be some questions about the image, and included an explanation on the back cover of the card: "While it may seem odd to put the portrait of a young Muslim woman on the cover of a Christmas card, this Season reminds us that He loves His children most of all."

Bredesen's spokeswoman, Lydia Lenker, said the responses she has seen from constituents actually have been positive, with most people wondering why anyone would question the governor's intentions.

"This is a season about children and protecting children," Lenker said, quoting Bredesen's response at a Dec. 19 press conference. "He's sorry if people didn't take it the way he meant it to be taken," she said.

Governors or their spouses often choose the card's design and message, sometimes using the same card year after year. The cost of greeting cards and mailing generally is covered by a governor's campaign or other privately raised funds.

At least three governors, in Arizona, Minnesota and New Mexico, are in the "bah-humbug" category this year, and chose not to send out any holiday cards.