‘Holiday trees’ nothing new at the Rhode Island Statehouse

November 29th, 2011 at 12:16 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Governor Chafee issued a statement on Tuesday morning saying the decision to call the Statehouse’s yuletide greenery “a holiday tree” is not a change of policy or a bow to political correctness on his part. And there’s plenty of evidence to back him up.

Here, for example, is the invitation Governor Carcieri sent out in 2009:

Here’s the press release sent out in 2006 by Carcieri’s office (thanks to Bill Dennen on Twitter):

Governor Donald L. Carcieri and First Lady Suzanne Carcieri will host the annual tree-lighting ceremony at 6:00 p.m. on Friday, December 1, 2006. For the first time in many years, the ceremony will feature a large tree outdoors – on the south or city side of the State House – as well as a large tree in the building’s rotunda. The public is invited to attend the outdoor ceremonies beginning at 5:00 p.m.

There will be a total of 8 natural trees lighted for the holidays, plus an artificial tree in the State Room as well as a display of traditional December decorations of other countries around the rotunda.

Here’s the press release sent out in 1995 by Channel 10′s Jim Taricani, who was then the press secretary to Gov. Lincoln Amond, Carcieri’s predecessor and fellow Republican – Jim doesn’t mention Christmas at all:

Although RI.gov has delated all of former Governor Carcieri’s press releases (whose awful idea was that?), a quick Google search offers up some further evidence of “holiday trees” in Rhode Island.

Governing magazine, Dec. 21, 2006:

The “holiday tree” phenomenon is but one example of why the difference between “Christmas” and “holiday” governors is pretty blurry. For example, Carcieri never calls his trees “Christmas trees,” but does mention Santa and Hyde’s Christmas Tree Farm. Connecticut’s Jodi Rell hosted a “Holiday Open House” that included Christmas trees.

Projo, Dec. 1, 2008:

Governor Carcieri and his wife, Sue, will host the official holiday tree lighting ceremony in the rotunda on Friday, Dec. 5, at 6 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

WPRI.com, Nov. 24, 2009:

This year’s annual State House holiday tree lighting will be held on Friday, December 4th at 5:30 p.m.

Governor Donald Carcieri and Mrs. Carcieri will be hosting the event which is held in the Rotunda of the State House.

That said, Carcieri’s former press secretary, Amy Kempe, said on Twitter she thinks she sent press releases “using the word ‘Christmas’ in relation to the big fir tree that adorns the rotunda,” so it’s possible a “Christmas tree” release from Carcieri just hasn’t turned up yet. Leave your “Christmas tree” evidence in comments or email me.

Update: Here’s an example of Carcieri’s office using the word “Christmas tree” internally – a letter from his aide Deborah Smith to artists asking them to submit ornaments (though she also says they’ll be part of “the Annual State House Holiday Program”):

Update #2: Here are a few examples for the prosecution.

First, Carcieri using “Christmas tree” in his 2007 press release, as captured by HighBeam Research:

Governor Donald L. Carcieri and Mrs. Carcieri will light the State House Christmas trees at the annual holiday event on Friday evening, December 7, at 6:00 p.m. The public is invited to gather at 5:30 p.m.

Here’s an AP story from Dec. 5, 2008:

Governor Carcieri and his wife will light the state’s official Christmas Tree under the Statehouse rotunda.

The 20-foot Douglas Fir was cut down in Tiverton and will be illuminated during a ceremony Friday inside the capitol building starting at 5:30 p.m. Displays depicting international holiday customs have been set up on the building’s second floor.

And Carcieri’s 2010 press release mentions “Christmas tree,” but not in reference to the state’s fir:

Governor Donald L. Carcieri and First Lady Suzanne Carcieri extend a warm invitation to all Rhode Islanders to celebrate the holidays with the annual tree-lighting ceremony at the State House on Friday, December 10th. The 18-foot Douglas Fir, from Pachet Brook Farm in Tiverton, stands in the State House rotunda and is decorated with gold ribbons and features golden quahog shell ornaments and white lights. …

The celebration also includes craft tables where children can create ornaments to hang on their own Christmas Tree.

The State House Tree Lighting is funded entirely by donations. Donors include Webster Bank, Fidelity Investments, Citizens Bank, National Grid, and Pot Au Feu.

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23 Responses to “‘Holiday trees’ nothing new at the Rhode Island Statehouse”

  1. [...] CHRISTMAS: As Ted Nesi reports, the tempest over Governor Chafee’s description of a “holiday tree” in the [...]

  2. teddy says:

    It’s a CHRISTMAS Tree! If you don’t want Christ in Christmas–DO NOT buy gifts, DO NOT take your kids to see Santa, DO NOT take the day off from work!

    I am aware there are other holidays being celebrated, but stop messing with the Chirstians beliefs. What will be next? to call the Jewish star of david a “Holiday Star”?

    Have some respect for all people’s beliefs and stop altering them so librals can celebrate a faux holiday for themselves!

    1. Teddy, Teddy, Teddy…

      You are aware that a “Christmas Tree” is attached to the pagan holiday of Yule? So is the gift giving. Santa was never Christian either and has his origins are also quite pagan… In fact everything you’re ascribing to about being “Catholic” and “Christian” are the actions of the Roman Catholic Church’s successful attempts as assimilating the Gaelic and Pagans of Europe to their religious doctrines?

      Show me where in the Four Books of the New Testament that there was any sort of holiday associated to Christmas. Show me where Christ himself stopped whatever he was doing to celebrate any other holy days other than those that were ascribed in the Torah.

      Next time, I would strongly suggest if you’re going to froth like a madman at the desecration of the “sanctity” of Christmas, perhaps you read through those four books that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote about Christ and how to be Christ-LIKE…

      1. teddy says:

        From yahoo answers:
        “What is the symbolism of the Christmas tree today? Well first of all, the fir tree is an evergreen–it does not die or fade away or lose its needles in the winter. In this sense it has soon come to represent the immortality of the resurrected Christ.”

        …I’m a madman? Give me a break! How to be Christ-like? Well, when things go against your rights and beliefs, it is appropriate to stand up for things. Since you claim to be such a “religious scholar”, Did you not read the part where Jesus was angry when a place of worship was turned into a market place and he overturned the merchant’s tables?

        And, I am quite aware of the similarities of WICCA and Catholic masses such as the use of wine, flowers, an alter and so on. Both religions celebrate soltice, etc.

        and this comment you posted takes the cake!: “Show me where in the Four Books of the New Testament that there was any sort of holiday associated to Christmas”.

        —HELLO!!!!!!!Christmas wouldn’t be mentioned–Jesus was living–We celebrated his life AFTER he was cruxified, died, buried & resurrected=The establishment of Christmas! That’s like saying the July 4th holiday was established prior to the writing of the declaration of independance!

        You’re a riot!

  3. Lisa Perry says:

    I think the governor needs to get off his high horse and call it what it is…it is a Christmas tree. This man is on a serious power trip and he needs to be put in his place. First he helps the state treasurer steal peoples retirement that people worked hard to earn. Is his retirement or her retirement taking a hit also…probably not. I think the people of Rhode Island should be ashamed to call him your governor. If this fool don’t believe it should be a Christmas tree then why even bother to put it up? Christmas is all about spirit and giving why ruin that for people? This is a very very selfish man.

  4. teddy says:

    From WPRI article:
    “Chafee encouraged individuals upset with the word choice to focus their energy on volunteering. He cited feeding the poor as a good example.”

    –Guess what, Chafee? As being a good Catholic, I have MONTHLY for the last 3 years help feed the poor one Sunday per month–about 60-120 at a time–in RI. I am upset with your word “choice” for it is a slap in the face to GOD and Jesus. It’s not called CHRISTMAS for nothing!

    Providence–definition: 1.The protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power.

  5. found a bed at the inn says:

    Wait a minute? Why is the tree related to Catholicism anyway?

    I’m confused? I don’t remember seeing any reference to a tree in my bible.

    People (read:elected officials) have many more important things to worry about, like getting people back to work making a living wage, and combating the influence of corporations who don’t pay their share of taxes.

    They shouldn’t have to spend time defending word choice, when that word choice is/isn’t PC, or violating any religious tenants. It’s irrelevant.

    Great Job Ted. By finding this information, you’ve squashed this argument, right? No, Depetro and Allen will continue to berate the Gov. because they do not have any original thoughts on improving the state of our lively experiment. They fabricate these cockamamie “issues” so they can rant on the dials. They keep their job by being the voice of people who can sit in their parents basement, or at their kitchen table and listen to the radio all day.

    1. light a menorah says:

      Wait a minute, do the still call it lighting a menorah or will that get changed to “holiday” candle? That makes sense because i remember how the constitution say complete freedom from religion, no religion allowed in America unless you are Muslim.

  6. teddy says:

    –”Wait a minute? Why is the tree related to Catholicism anyway?”

    From yahoo answers:
    “What is the symbolism of the Christmas tree today? Well first of all, the fir tree is an evergreen–it does not die or fade away or lose its needles in the winter. In this sense it has soon come to represent the immortality of the resurrected Christ.”

    A rose is still a rose. A Christmas tree is still a Christmas Tree.
    –No one, including Chafee, has the right to call it something else.
    Calling it a holiday tree is disrespectful to poeple of the faith.
    Chafee’s a libral, so be liberating and respect people that have faith….

    1. Sean K Reynolds says:

      Tell that to the Pagans–the Christians adoped the winter holiday, Yule, in the hopes of co-opting Pagans.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule

  7. Luke says:

    I prefer “Holiday”, it is more inclusive. People from other religion also pay taxes!

    1. teddy says:

      Ok, well, I guess we can call Mexicans–Donkies, Giraffes dishwashers, Televisions lunch boxes & Homosexuals roadkill…It’s just words…

      Librals want everything to be meaningless….

      “I prefer “Holiday”, it is more inclusive. People from other religion also pay taxes”–

      calling it a holiday tree dilutes and disrespects people’s beliefs. Yes, others pay taxes–I have no problem putting displays for quanza, Chanukah
      and other religions. But, don’t be renaming my beliefs and religous representations. That goes against freedom of religion.

      Chafee is to represent the poeple, not dilude or manipulate traditions for his own egotistical motive.

  8. Jack says:

    I was listening to John DePetro’s show yesterday when he was declaring “The Governor wants to Ban Christmas in Rhode Island.” I found this offensive and purposefully inaccurate, as its clear that the Governor is trying to be inclusive of ALL religions and not just pick and choose certain religions to recognize with taxpayer money.

    Then DePetro took it a step further. A 10 year old girl called his show and he put her on the air. He asked her how she felt “about the Governor trying to ban Christmas and the baby Jesus.”

    Then he went even further and told this little girl – and any other young people who may have been listening that “The Governor wants to stop Santa from coming to your home and giving you presents.”

    That’s just reprehensible behavior for a Talk Radio show host – or anyone – to tell any and all children listening, including that 10 year old girl he was speaking to on the phone and radio – that the Governor wants to stop Santa.

    DePetro might call the Governor a Grinch, but telling children that the Governor is trying to stop Santa from coming to their home and giving them presents is just sick and cruel, and more of a Grinch than the well intended (but misguided) effort of the Governor to be inclusive of all religions.

  9. Norm says:

    I wonder if all those who want to see Christian religious ceremonies at the State House would extend that same right to all religions.

    Would that include those religions that engage in small animal sacrifice of goats and sheep, or voodoo rituals involving the killing of chickens in a religious ritual?

    Yes, I’m being facetious, but only slightly.

    There’s no need to embrace Athiesim as a defacto state religion, but it’s a slippery slope when citizens and governments pick and choose which religions they want to honor in official state ceremonies and which they do not.

  10. Per Krampus says:

    I totally agree! This War on Christmas has gone one long enough! Let’s get back to the origins of Christmas!

    A pagan feast day. Tree, stockings, and even Santa Claus. All pagan.

    Come down off your high horses, Christians. NOBODY is trying to make you take Christ out of Christmas. The only people who can take Christ out of Christmas are Christians–by being uncharitable, intolerant, and petty, all over religious traditions that early Christians stole from a completely different faith.

  11. [...] Monday by Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who says the phrase “holiday tree” is more inclusive and tracks past governors’ language. The debate has made national news and already graced The Providence Journal’s front page [...]

  12. Sean K Reynolds says:

    The Bible says to not cut trees, bring them into your house, and adorn them:
    Jeremiah 10 NIV
    1 Hear what the LORD says to you, O house of Israel. 2 This is what the LORD says:
    “Do not learn the ways of the nations
    or be terrified by signs in the sky,
    though the nations are terrified by them.
    3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
    they cut a tree out of the forest,
    and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. 4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
    they fasten it with hammer and nails
    so it will not totter.

  13. Carol says:

    I like it. Call it Christmas and tax only Christians. Call it holiday and everyone gets taxed no matter their religion or no religion.

  14. [...] problem is semantic. Chafee and other governors can call it whatever they want in a cautious press release, but anyone who walks into the State [...]

  15. teddy says:

    From an Article found on the RI Catholic website:

    ” Father Timothy Reilly, chancellor of the diocese, reaffirmed the irony of Chafee’s message.

    “In the governor’s attempts to unify, his decision has done quite the opposite,” Father Reilly said. “The irony is that we see more confusion and lack of unity. Christmas is a precious and sacred word in our faith vocabulary.”

    Father John Codega, pastor of St. Brendan Church, Riverside told WPRO News that Christians are “frustrated” with Chafee’s decision.

    “The governor is continuing to turn his back on the faith community,” Father Codega continued, adding that by suggesting that Rhode Island lawmakers and others involved in the debate should focus their energy and enthusiasm on feeding those less fortunate, Chafee is insulting the faith community.

    “These are the people that are serving the poor,” Father Codega emphasized, noting that St. Patrick Church on Smith Hill, the site of a Christmas tree lighting scheduled for next Tuesday, Dec. 6, serves those less fortunate through several outreach ministries including a soup kitchen and food pantry.”

    —These comments made by our great local religous leaders says it all!

  16. [...] lighting of Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee. Let’s forget the fact that this is a tradition that has been going on for years, with the evergreen in question being called a “Holiday Tree” nearly every single time. [...]

  17. Erik says:

    The answer is to not put any tree or decorations up until we all stop squabbling like children.

  18. [...] fact, as Ted Nesi of WPRI.com showed, Governor Carcieris 2009 invitation referred to the tree to be decorated and lit as a [...]