Inauguration Arcana: An Overview

The presidential inauguration was first held in Washington in 1800, and in the two centuries since, a whole host of smaller traditions have become a part of the ceremony as well.

Here is a glance at some of the symbolic details that will be part of the transfer of power, as George W. Bush becomes the nation's 43rd president.

Flags

Five flags will fly before the west front of the Capitol during the swearing-in ceremony.

In the middle will be the present U.S. flag, with 50 stars (one for each state) and 13 stripes (one for each state in the original union).

On either side of that will be U.S. flags with 28 stars, in honor of Bush's home state of Texas, which was the 28th state to join the union, in 1846.

Flanking the middle three flags will be two old-fashioned U.S. flags with "Betsy Ross"-style rounded edges on the stars.

The Bible

As he takes the oath of office, George W. Bush will place his left hand upon the same bible his father, President George Bush, used while being sworn into office in 1989.

Bush will use the King James version of the bible, resting his hand on an edition printed in 1767 and provided by the St. John's Lodge of New York.

It is, in fact, the exact same bible used by a number of presidents while taking office, including George Washington in 1793. Among the other chief executives sworn in on it: Warren Harding, Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter.

Floats

Six floats will be prominently featured in the parade. The floats are constructed by Hargrove Company of Lanham, Md., which has worked on 14 presidential inaugurations.

The lead float will consist of a refurbished American eagle that has been used in past inaugurations, along with 50 American flags, and is meant to symbolize the unity of the nation.

A following float is called "Texas today and tomorrow," in honor of Bush. It will feature a skyline of a Texas city, a space shuttle blasting off, an oil well, and a barn.

Another float will have the theme, "Reading is magic," highlighting a pet cause of first lady-to be Laura Bush. The float depicts characters from books by Mark Twain, Dr. Seuss and others, including Lewis Carroll, whose Alice in Wonderland will be represented by the Queen of Hearts, the rabbit and Mad-Hatter. The Grinch and other figures from Dr. Suess' from the Cat in the Hat will feature prominently as well.

Among the other floats is one celebrating the state of Wyoming, home of Vice President-elect Dick Cheney. It will feature imagery of the Grand Teton mountains, and 8-foot replica of a man on a bucking bronco, a running stream with a man fishing, and stuffed buffaloes. The float will be "pulled" by a 162-year-old Conestoga wagon.

Music

Five songs will be played during the swearing-in ceremony, ending with the Star Spangled Banner, the national anthem, which follows the oaths of office taken by Bush and Cheney.

The songs and their lyrics:

The Testament of Freedom:

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time, At the same time; the hand of force may destroy, The hand of force may destroy but cannot disjoin them, Cannot disjoin them, cannot, cannot disjoin them.

The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time, At the same time; the hand of force may destroy, The hand of force may destroy but cannot disjoin them, Cannot disjoin them, cannot, cannot disjoin them.

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