Rhode Island’s Governor Will Call the Statehouse Spruce a ‘Christmas Tree’

His attempts to refer to it as a 'holiday tree' in past years generated more controversy than it was worth, he says.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee issued a statement saying the invitations to this year’s tree lighting ceremony will use the term “Christmas Tree.” The governor is giving up his attempts to refer to the statehouse spruce as a ‘holiday tree.” But he doesn’t sound particularly jolly about it:

Despite the myriad of pressing issues facing Rhode Island and the nation, this presumably happy event became a focal point for too much anger. Strangely lost in the brouhaha was any intellectual discussion of the liberties pioneered here in Rhode Island 350 years ago in our Charter. Because I do not think how we address the State House tree affects our “lively experiment,” this year’s invitation calls the tree a Christmas tree.

As Chafee notes, the “holiday tree” was a nod to Rhode Island’s roots as a colony founded on the principle of religious freedom. (We here in Massachusetts already refer to our statehouse pine as a “Christmas tree.” Hey, we were founded as a Puritan theocracy after all.) Chaffee was following the lead of past governors with “holiday tree,” but the ceremony had generated controversy of late, with protesters interrupting a children’s choir performance to sing “Oh, Christmas Tree.” But no longer will they need to outshout children to make their point. Joy to the world.

Eric Randall
Eric Randall Eric Randall, Contributor at Boston Magazine ericrandall988@gmail.com