Christmas time should be a joyous time. It is the time when family and friends get together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Christmas time brings with it Christmas carols, Christmas shopping, Christmas cookies, Christmas concerts, and lighting the Christmas tree.
According to the news, Governor Lincoln Chafee’s “holiday tree lighting” ceremony turned out less than jolly. Rhode Island is heavily Roman Catholic state; however, that made no difference to the governor who refused to say it was a “Christmas tree” he was lighting.
Protesters did not agree with the expression “Holiday tree.” So they sang “O Christmas Tree” over the choir as Mr. Chafee and his wife flipped the switch to light the 17-foot spruce in the marble State House rotunda.
The Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island said the governor was trying to “secularize the season with the ‘holiday label.” So the Diocese held a competing tree-lighting ceremony at St. Patrick’s Parish down the street from the State House.
Fifty-nine percent of Rhode Islanders identify themselves as Catholic, the highest percentage of any state, according to the 2011 Official Catholic Directory, an annual collection of national diocesan statistics
Governor Chafee insists that he’s simply honoring Rhode Island’s origins as a sanctuary for religious diversity. Chafee also notes that previous governors have used the term “holiday” tree. However, his office received 3,500 calls of protest.
According to the Miami Herald, Bishop Thomas Tobin, head of the Roman Catholic church in Providence, said the governor’s decision to call it a holiday tree was “most disheartening and divisive.”
The state House of Representatives in January passed a symbolic resolution declaring that the tree traditionally put up at this time of year be referred to “as a ‘Christmas tree’ and not as a ‘holiday tree’ or other non-traditional terms.”
Republican Rep. Doreen Costa, the resolution’s sponsor said:
“Political correctness has gone too far I don’t care what he calls it. Anyone who looks at it knows it’s a Christmas tree. That’s just what it is.”
That’s the belief of John Leyden of Big John Leyden’s Christmas Tree Farm, which donated the 17-foot Colorado blue spruce to the state. Leyden told The Associated Press that Chafee can call the tree whatever he wants, but that doesn’t change its significance.
“Why minimize Christmas?” he asked. “That’s why we have these trees to begin with.”
When Providence Mayor Angel Taveras lit the capital city’s 35-foot tree during a recent “holiday celebration,” his administration was quick to spell out exactly what it was Taveras was lighting.
“Those are Christmas trees,” said Taveras spokesman David Ortiz.