The White House Christmas card this year features a painting of Bo, the Obamas' four-year-old Portuguese water dog. The reproduction of an oil painting by Des Moines, Iowa artist Laressa Kabel features the pooch prancing through the snow on the South Lawn of the White House wearing a winter scarf.
Each year the coveted cards are created by work commissioned by an artist or from a photograph taken at the White House.
In her book "Season's Greetings from the White House," published in 2007, historian Mary Seeley delves into the details of the annual White House Christmas card, from Calvin Coolidge to George W. Bush. (Seeley runs White House Holidays and A Presidential Christmas.) She notes that the first season's greetings was sent by Coolidge, writing "Merry Christmas!" on official White House letterhead.
The cards can become highly collectible and sought-after by some. A customer review of Seeley's book on Amazon.com states: "The book's frontispiece displays the magnificent Neapolitan Baroque crèche in the White House East Room in 1963. The photograph was selected by President and Mrs. Kennedy for their Christmas card scheduled to be sent in December. Less than 30 were personally signed by both the President and First Lady prior to their fateful Dallas trip. These dual-signed Christmas cards are among the rarest of all Presidential Christmas memorabilia."
Some White House Christmas cards are for sale on eBay. A card from the Kennedy White House, described as being distributed to staffmembers by Mrs. Kennedy, is for sale on eBay for $4,900.
The cards can sometimes be politicized. Last year former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin criticized the Obama's card which depicted Bo stretched out in front of a fireplace. She told Fox News radio that she found it "odd" that the card emphasizes the dog instead of traditions like "family, faith and freedom."
Former President George Bush and his wife Laura, continuing a tradition they started in Texas, sent out cards with bible verses in them.
The cards are paid for by the president's political party.
How about you? Do you still send out holiday greetings? According to Unity Marketing, the percentage of consumers buying Christmas cards fell from 77 percent in 2007 to 62 percent in 2009, according to a recent report by MSN Money.com. That year, the Greeting Card Association industry group said greeting card companies sold 1.8 billion Christmas cards. By 2011, that card count had dropped to 1.5 billion.