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.