In recent weeks, we’ve been going down the line of states to see which will dare to call their amply decorated and brightly lit spruce trees Christmas trees or holiday trees. In Rhode Island, it’s a holiday tree, though calling it so cause much grief for Gov. Chafee. In Wisconsin, Gov. Walker ushered in the return of the Christmas tree after its exile for over 20 years as a holiday tree, and it did so with quite a bit of protest. A similar response came in Illinois, where Gov. Quinn also declared his spruce a Christmas tree.
But what’s with the controversy? It’s pretty clear the decorated tree is a Christmas tree. Other than the pagan tradition of Yule, no other holiday celebrates by specifically decorating a fir or spruce with tinsel, lights and ornaments. Today, in America, that particular tradition belongs to Christmas almost exclusively. By calling it a holiday tree you have not changed where the tradition comes from. You have not taken Christmas out of it in practice; you’ve simply changed the name. Ask yourself this question: if someone is offended by Christmas, how does changing the name but keeping the tradition help? It doesn’t.
Not that it should.
Christmas is still a national federal holiday. At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue they put up a Christmas tree. What’s more, President Obama spoke specifically about the story of Jesus in a speech during the tree lighting ceremony. Until Christmas actually stops being an important tradition for the majority of Americans we should stop trying to pretend it already has.
Furthermore, in this country that celebrates diversity and our many different unique heritages, what is the purpose in making the holiday season one big conglomeration? Consider the calling other traditions the holiday menorah or the holiday mazao. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Those are traditions that belong to specific religions and cultures, not to some imaginary holiday. Why take away their individuality and cheapen them by lumping them all together?
That Christmas stems from religious traditions seems to be the reason people want to call it a holiday tree. Yet, while most polls show that over 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, tree included, a smaller number of Americans celebrate it based on religious traditions. And if that isn’t enough to convince someone to keep the Christmas tree, maybe the first amendment is.
In America, not only are we taught to celebrate diversity, we are taught that we all have the right to freedom of religion. Those that promote the holiday tree seem to favor freedom from religion.
The entire business of changing the name of a tree to a holiday tree is an exercise in futility that has created false controversies nation wide. And yet, ‘tis the season to be tolerant and to celebrate, so perhaps we should try that instead.