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Trimming 'Christmas' from trees stirs debate


Everlong204

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In city halls and public parks across the country, stories-high evergreens are being erected and decked with glowing lights and sparkling ornaments.

 

 

They look - and smell - like Christmas trees. But not so fast.

 

In places as varied as Chicago, Reno and Prairie Village, Kan., they're "holiday" trees. In other spots, such as Atlanta, they have no name at all.

 

This year, the tree-name game has sparked a backlash, with some Americans crying humbug and Christian groups threatening lawsuits over what they say is religious discrimination.

 

Perhaps the most heated debate is brewing in Boston. The city's Parks and Recreation Department ignited a furor when it advertised the lighting of a "Holiday Tree," scheduled for tonight.

 

People complained, and the Nova Scotia logger who donated the spruce told newspapers he'd rather feed the tree to a wood chipper than call it that. Said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino: "I consider this tree to be a Christmas tree."

 

Mathew Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, a legal group that focuses on religious issues, said the mayor's use of "Christmas tree" means there's no need to go to court over the issue. His group's Christmas campaign aims to stop what it views as religious censorship and "political correctness run amok." It is endorsed by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

 

"It's like calling a menorah a candlestick," Staver said. "It's wrong. It's offensive. And it disenfranchises a large segment of the community."

 

This week in Washington, D.C., the "Capitol Holiday Tree" was renamed the "Capitol Christmas Tree" at the request of House Speaker

Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

 

It was called a Christmas tree until the mid-1990s, Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said. "The Speaker thought it was important to reflect what Americans call their trees, which are Christmas trees," he said.

 

Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said using the term "Christmas tree" excludes people of other faiths and backgrounds.

 

"I certainly don't need spiritual sustenance from the government," he said. "I get that in my church."

 

Respect for diversity is the most common reason given by those that use the term "holiday tree." In the town of Fishers, Ind., officials advertise the annual "tree lighting ceremony," without using the words "Christmas" or "holiday."

 

"We want to be sensitive to all ethnic backgrounds and religious beliefs," said Marc Steczyk, a town spokesman. "We're in the business of treating all people how they should be treated."

 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/usatoday/20051201/...reesstirsdebate

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Guest markotsay7

I'm Jewish and I find holiday tree offensive. Jeez, it IS for Christmas. I'd get so offended if someone called a menorah a candle holder or candleabra.

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I'm Jewish and I find holiday tree offensive. Jeez, it IS for Christmas. I'd get so offended if someone called a menorah a candle holder or candleabra.

 

I really dont care either way, but certainly the Christmas tree and Christianity are not the same as the menorah Judaism. Id agree with the Nativity scene and the cross, but the Xmas tree has gotten so secular of late.

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Guest markotsay7

If it's paid with tax payer money, call it a Holiday Tree. If it's donated, call it whatever the hell the donator wants.

 

 

Disagree. I have no problem paying for a Christmas tree, as long as there's a menorah there too. Of course usually the tree is 8 feet tall with a 12 inch menorah, but I understand there aren't many other ways to do it, since immense menorahs and dreidels don't exist.

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Public displays (as opposed to Chabad- or community-sponsored) of menorahs kinda gets on me as well. I mean, it's more of a religious display than a Christmas tree (which is actually more related to German traditions and less toward religion). Plus, I don't even want to wonder whether a public menorah display is too patronizing, especially since this is such a big blow-up of a "minor holiday" in the Jewish calendar. Hell, even Chanukah songs sung by school choruses are kinda getting on me, especially when they aren't even traditional tunes (but of course, there aren't too many). So I'll just take a pass on this debate, thank you. But I sure as hell won't prevent you from saying "Merry Christmas". How I'd feel about it if you said it to me would be another story, being that it's with the best of intentions but also with the whiff of ignorance.

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I think the best part about all this overly-PC nonsense is the lampooning of this by one of the cell phone companies that has Happy Chrismahannukwanzikka or whatever. It has all the ethnicies in all the other ethncities traditional garb and stuff. Great fun.

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I'm Jewish and I find holiday tree offensive. Jeez, it IS for Christmas. I'd get so offended if someone called a menorah a candle holder or candleabra.

 

I really dont care either way, but certainly the Christmas tree and Christianity are not the same as the menorah Judaism. Id agree with the Nativity scene and the cross, but the Xmas tree has gotten so secular of late.

 

 

 

So I assume you think it's wrong to talk about Christianity in a classroom setting too?

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I'm Jewish and I find holiday tree offensive. Jeez, it IS for Christmas. I'd get so offended if someone called a menorah a candle holder or candleabra.

 

I really dont care either way, but certainly the Christmas tree and Christianity are not the same as the menorah Judaism. Id agree with the Nativity scene and the cross, but the Xmas tree has gotten so secular of late.

 

 

 

So I assume you think it's wrong to talk about Christianity in a classroom setting too?

In what public school context? Discuss Christianity in history class because it played a role in world history and US history? Fine with me. Discuss Christianity in a theology class where views of God and whether he exists are discussed? Fine with me. Discuss Christianity class in a bible study class where taxpayer funds are used to advance the tenents of the religion through practice and conversion? Where questioning hte word of God is considered improper or weak? Sounds to me to be exactly what the establishment clause prevents. Do you consider this an extreme position?

 

The difference is one is one of the state having a secular goal and the state having a religious goal. Those on the opposite side of the ACLU are not isolated to wanting only secular goals. There are those who want to make religion a public matter. And if I were a Christian, this would bother me.

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I'm Jewish and I find holiday tree offensive. Jeez, it IS for Christmas. I'd get so offended if someone called a menorah a candle holder or candleabra.

 

I really dont care either way, but certainly the Christmas tree and Christianity are not the same as the menorah Judaism. Id agree with the Nativity scene and the cross, but the Xmas tree has gotten so secular of late.

 

 

 

So I assume you think it's wrong to talk about Christianity in a classroom setting too?

In what public school context? Discuss Christianity in history class because it played a role in world history and US history? Fine with me. Discuss Christianity in a theology class where views of God and whether he exists are discussed? Fine with me. Discuss Christianity class in a bible study class where taxpayer funds are used to advance the tenents of the religion through practice and conversion? Where questioning hte word of God is considered improper or weak? Sounds to me to be exactly what the establishment clause prevents. Do you consider this an extreme position?

 

The difference is one is one of the state having a secular goal and the state having a religious goal. Those on the opposite side of the ACLU are not isolated to wanting only secular goals. There are those who want to make religion a public matter. And if I were a Christian, this would bother me.

 

 

 

No I don't think that's extreme. What you said about nativity scenes and crosses - I am not sure what you mean, please explain.

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I'm Jewish and I find holiday tree offensive. Jeez, it IS for Christmas. I'd get so offended if someone called a menorah a candle holder or candleabra.

 

I really dont care either way, but certainly the Christmas tree and Christianity are not the same as the menorah Judaism. Id agree with the Nativity scene and the cross, but the Xmas tree has gotten so secular of late.

 

 

 

So I assume you think it's wrong to talk about Christianity in a classroom setting too?

In what public school context? Discuss Christianity in history class because it played a role in world history and US history? Fine with me. Discuss Christianity in a theology class where views of God and whether he exists are discussed? Fine with me. Discuss Christianity class in a bible study class where taxpayer funds are used to advance the tenents of the religion through practice and conversion? Where questioning hte word of God is considered improper or weak? Sounds to me to be exactly what the establishment clause prevents. Do you consider this an extreme position?

 

The difference is one is one of the state having a secular goal and the state having a religious goal. Those on the opposite side of the ACLU are not isolated to wanting only secular goals. There are those who want to make religion a public matter. And if I were a Christian, this would bother me.

 

 

 

No I don't think that's extreme. What you said about nativity scenes and crosses - I am not sure what you mean, please explain.

Oh what I was saying was that the menorah and the role it plays in the Jewish religion is pretty identified and clear, ie what it represented in the ancient practice is still what it represents today. Thats why calling it a candle is very offensive to Jewish people. I think for Christians, the cross and the nativity scene are just as identified and clear. They represent specific things in the religion that are close and personal and always have been to the religion. To have to refer to a cross as a "off lined plus sign" would be offensive too.

 

But the role the Christmas tree plays in Christianity, at least as I understand it, is very vague and different. The Christmas tree, unlike the cross and menorah, have no links to the origin or ancient practice of the religion. In fact someone else mentioned that it has more to do with German culture than Christianity. Throw in the fact that, in our modern day, its barely even Christian anymore. To me, this makes holiday tree that much less offensive at least to Christians.

 

If you think its stupid and pc and not needed, then I understand and probably agree. But I dont think changing it is too much of an afront to Christianity. Maybe as Christians practice their religion today, the tree plays a central role. But I think that has more to do with our modern American culture than it does about religion.

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OK I see what you're saying.

 

 

 

As far as Christmas trees, you're right, it's a Germanic tradition. And you're also right about the holiday itself. There is a secularized version and a version that actually acknowledges why the holiday exists. Sometimes I wonder why people who care nothing about Jesus Christ exchange gifts on Christmas. I think that's more offensive than *gasp* calling it Christmas.

 

Seriously, what if I wasn't religious, and I decide I want to take Hannukah and de-Jew it, just to use it as an opportunity to exchange gifts - but get all upset when someone calls my candles "menorahs"

 

Not that I don't think exhanging gifts is ok - I just don't get the double standard here.

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Guest markotsay7

I think the best part about all this overly-PC nonsense is the lampooning of this by one of the cell phone companies that has Happy Chrismahannukwanzikka or whatever. It has all the ethnicies in all the other ethncities traditional garb and stuff. Great fun.

 

 

I actually wrote a piece on this at my blog at www.DavidPolakoff.com/blog.html if anyone's interested in reading it. This article spurred it and I included a piece I wrote last year (which includes the Virgin commercial Fritz spoke of). Check it out and let's discuss it.

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OK I see what you're saying.

 

 

 

As far as Christmas trees, you're right, it's a Germanic tradition. And you're also right about the holiday itself. There is a secularized version and a version that actually acknowledges why the holiday exists. Sometimes I wonder why people who care nothing about Jesus Christ exchange gifts on Christmas. I think that's more offensive than *gasp* calling it Christmas.

 

Seriously, what if I wasn't religious, and I decide I want to take Hannukah and de-Jew it, just to use it as an opportunity to exchange gifts - but get all upset when someone calls my candles "menorahs"

 

Not that I don't think exhanging gifts is ok - I just don't get the double standard here.

 

Yeah thats what Ive always wondered about Christmas and Christians. I guess Ive always figured there were two types of Christmases. Some of us get to play with our toys and party all day. Some of us have to go to mass. Just kidding!

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someone please tell me what religious connection a tree has to do with the Christian faith?

 

Its part of the secular holiday of Christmas.

 

 

Damn.

 

Christmas trees and Christmas (which is in fact, a christian holiday) started in the 8th century when St. Boniface stumbled on a group of pagans worshiping an oak tree and about to sacrifice a small child. Immediately the good saint rushed to the child's defense, he grabbed the sacrificial axe and in one mighty swing felled the oak. Bending down to pick up the child who he had just saved he noticed a tiny spruce tree growing between the roots of the oak. The spruce tree became the symbol of new life. He told the stunned onlookers that this was a sacred tree of God, a tree of the Christ child, God's gift to man. Such a tree should be taken into the home; decorated and surrounded by gifts to remind us of God's many gifts to us. (Spruce trees also came to represent Christianity's "defeat" of paganism).

 

If people feel so strongly and are offended about this then I would expect them to never say they are celebrating Christams. They should celebrate 'holiday'. If they are offended by Christmas Tree and obviously the Christian part of it...then how can they so freely celebrate the Christian holiday?

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someone please tell me what religious connection a tree has to do with the Christian faith?

 

Its part of the secular holiday of Christmas.

 

 

Damn.

 

Christmas trees and Christmas (which is in fact, a christian holiday) started in the 8th century when St. Boniface stumbled on a group of pagans worshiping an oak tree and about to sacrifice a small child. Immediately the good saint rushed to the child's defense, he grabbed the sacrificial axe and in one mighty swing felled the oak. Bending down to pick up the child who he had just saved he noticed a tiny spruce tree growing between the roots of the oak. The spruce tree became the symbol of new life. He told the stunned onlookers that this was a sacred tree of God, a tree of the Christ child, God's gift to man. Such a tree should be taken into the home; decorated and surrounded by gifts to remind us of God's many gifts to us. (Spruce trees also came to represent Christianity's "defeat" of paganism).

 

If people feel so strongly and are offended about this then I would expect them to never say they are celebrating Christams. They should celebrate 'holiday'. If they are offended by Christmas Tree and obviously the Christian part of it...then how can they so freely celebrate the Christian holiday?

 

ya what a shocker, its not actually a part of Christmas just another way of incorporating yet another symbol into the faith and not really having anything to do with the real 'spirit' of Christmas.

 

I mean ya the tree is great...but its mosly secular and pagan in nature.

 

It is what it is?

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someone please tell me what religious connection a tree has to do with the Christian faith?

 

Its part of the secular holiday of Christmas.

 

 

Damn.

 

Christmas trees and Christmas (which is in fact, a christian holiday) started in the 8th century when St. Boniface stumbled on a group of pagans worshiping an oak tree and about to sacrifice a small child. Immediately the good saint rushed to the child's defense, he grabbed the sacrificial axe and in one mighty swing felled the oak. Bending down to pick up the child who he had just saved he noticed a tiny spruce tree growing between the roots of the oak. The spruce tree became the symbol of new life. He told the stunned onlookers that this was a sacred tree of God, a tree of the Christ child, God's gift to man. Such a tree should be taken into the home; decorated and surrounded by gifts to remind us of God's many gifts to us. (Spruce trees also came to represent Christianity's "defeat" of paganism).

 

If people feel so strongly and are offended about this then I would expect them to never say they are celebrating Christams. They should celebrate 'holiday'. If they are offended by Christmas Tree and obviously the Christian part of it...then how can they so freely celebrate the Christian holiday?

 

 

 

Its certainly not as clear cut as Boniface coming up with it. The practice has its roots in ancient tradition also. In fact, there are many points in history when Christians themselves rejected the Christmas tree:

 

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

 

Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

 

It is not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The pilgrims's second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out "pagan mockery" of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against "the heathen traditions" of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated "that sacred event." In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.

 

In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Unlike the previous royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable?not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society. The Christmas tree had arrived.

 

By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.

 

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And like the concept of hell, the Christian adoption of the tree seems parallel to what others used it for:

 

 

 

-Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

 

-In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.

 

-The ancient Egyptians worshipped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from the illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death.

 

-Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs.

 

 

 

-In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder.

 

 

 

 

http://www.historychannel.com/exhibits/hol...tmas/trees.html

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Das, I realize Christmas is celebrated by non-believers widely, but you cannot water down the fact that it is a Christian holiday that a tree is part of it!

 

 

Using your logic, putting up garland, lighting the trees and bushes outside, seeing Santa Claus at the mall, etc. have nothing to do with Christmas

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Das, I realize Christmas is celebrated by non-believers widely, but you cannot water down the fact that it is a Christian holiday that a tree is part of it!

 

 

Using your logic, putting up garland, lighting the trees and bushes outside, seeing Santa Claus at the mall, etc. have nothing to do with Christmas

 

 

it doesnt have anything to do with the true celebration of Jesus' birth.

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