trump inauguration
Preparations are finalized on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol, where Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as America's 45th president, in Washington, Jan. 15, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler

Donald Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20 will be the 58th U.S. presidential inauguration, but what does this term actually mean? Inauguration is the ceremonial induction or formal admission of someone into office. In this case, it is the swearing-in ceremony of the president-elect and his vice president.

The ceremony has a long history, rich in tradition.

When is the ceremony?

During the initial years, presidential inaugurations took place on March 4, four months after Election Day. However, the date was changed to Jan. 20 through the Twentieth Amendment in 1933 to reduce the time between the president’s election and his official swearing-in. If the date falls on a Sunday, the oath of office is administered in a private ceremony, while the public inauguration takes place the next day — Jan. 21.

Where does the inauguration take place?

George Washington’s first presidential inauguration was held on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York but for his second term, the inauguration ceremony was held on March 4, 1793, at Congress Hall in Philadelphia. After Washington, D.C., became the federal capital on June 11, 1800, Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be inaugurated in the city.

The Capitol building has been the venue for most inauguration ceremonies. From Andrew Jackson’s inauguration to Jimmy Carter’s swearing-in, the ceremony was held at the East Portico of the Capitol. However, since 1981, it has been moved to the west side, providing more space for spectators.

Role of the Bible

The Constitution does not require any book to be used to administer the oath of office. However, most presidents have been sworn in on a Bible. John Quincy Adams, who was sworn in on a book of laws, Franklin Pierce, who was sworn in on another law book, and Lyndon B. Johnson, who was sworn in on a Catholic missal belonging to former President John F. Kennedy, were the exceptions.

President Barack Obama used the Lincoln Bible in 2009 and a Bible belonging to Martin Luther King Jr. in 2013.

The oath of office

Typically administered by the Chief Justice, the oath reads:

“I, [name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Inaugural address

The shortest inauguration address in U.S. presidential history was George Washington’s speech of 135 words. William Henry Harrison is known for giving the longest address — 8,445 words — in the cold without wearing a hat or an overcoat. Harrison’s almost two hour-long speech may have caused the president to fall ill following the festivities. He died of pneumonia 31 days later, the shortest presidential term in history.

William McKinley
William McKinley delivers his inaugural address as outgoing President Grover Cleveland listens in Washington, D.C., March 1897. Reuters