White House officials have hastily apologized for sending out invitations to a Chanukah reception with images of a Christmas tree. Spokesman Sally McDonough said a "staff mistake" caused the embarrassing gaffe. "It is just something that fell through the cracks," McDonough said.

The cards, sent to Jewish leaders in the United States, show a horse-drawn cart pulling a Christmas tree to the White House, which is decorated with a holiday wreath on the White House.

The invitation states that United States President George W. Bush and his wife Laura request "the pleasure of your company at a Chanukah reception." 

"It's absolutely bizarre to receive an invite to the White House for Hanukkah in a Christmas format," one anonymous person told the New York Post. "They should have consulted with their chief of protocol before sending this out. This belongs right in the 'Weird but True' column."

McDonough said the intended Hanukkah invitations, which bear the image of a menorah given to the White House during the Harry Truman administration, would be sent out Thursday.

The eight-day Chanukah holiday and Christmas usually coincide, as they do this year, or fall close to each other on the Gregorian calendar. Public displays of Christmas trees and Hanukah menorahs together often have raised disputes and fears that they contribute to assimilation of Jews.