There has been mini-controversy lately about a ‘Holiday Tree’ installed by the city of Portland, Maine in their Monument Square. The controversy comes because the city does not call the tree a ‘Christmas Tree’. instead they say it is, ‘the tree that signals the holiday season in Portland’. A lot of people around Maine are upset it is not being called a Christmas Tree.
Portland columnist Bill Nimitz suggests tongue in cheek the tree be called ‘Bruce the Spruce’, to disarm things, but that has only further inflamed the issue. For some reason, Christians in particular seem overly concerned about the nomenclature of things like trees, especially when they associate it with their religion.
But, the city of Portland has done exactly right. The tree is in the spirit of the holiday, and not a Christian Christmas. And, of course there are now several flavors to this seasonal holiday, among them ‘Kwansa & Hannukah’. A few years ago in Seattle a city Christmas Tree’ had to be taken down after a rabbi asked that a menorah be placed next to a Christmas display so labeled.
The rabbi had every right to make the request. When public money is spent on and identified with parochial issues - like Christmas - it is in violation of both the letter and intent of the US Constitution, although you will hear few Tea Partiers complain about that. They scream long, loudly and incessantly about the ‘Constitution’ and Constitutional rights - as long as they agree with whatever it is. But, go against their dogma - and the Tea Party is largely peopled by so-called ‘Christians’ - you will hear nary a peep. Not one single one. In fact, I’d lay even money that a lot of the people now screaming about the Holiday Tree in Portland are Tea Partiers. I'd win hands down too.
Ironically, the tree in Christmas celebrations has nothing to do with Christ. It is the result of a medieval priest’s (St. Boniface of Geismar, Germany) overreaction to the ‘Tree of Thor’, celebrating a Norse God. Maybe the tree should really be called the ‘Anti-Thor Tree’ or, the 'Un-Thor Tree'. Evergreen trees are associated with pagan pre-Christian Druid winter solstice celebrations, who also venerated Holly and Mistletoe. It is probably for that reason Puritans banned Christmas trees in early New England.
But, never mind. Christians have latched onto the tree and claimed it as their own. At first, about 150 years ago in the United States the custom was sporadic and took a while to catch on. But now, it is THEIRS by God and they want no one else to have a say in it. It’s a Christmas Tree by God, it’s theirs, it represents Christ’s birthday and by God that’s all there is to it! No matter the reality.
So, the tree has been hijacked, in many ways very like the way conservative movement and Tea Partiers hijacked the word ‘Patriot’. Patriots are them by God, and only them by God, and no one else need apply by God. Anyone else is a traitor according to their definition. You don’t want to cross those conservative Christian Tea Partiers.
And, another funny thing is, according to old and longstanding tradition, the tree is not put up until Christmas Eve. Now that it appears everywhere just after Thanksgiving is due to the mercenary avariciousness of retailers, and Christmas Tree merchants - probably not a really good reason to celebrate with the tree.
Ain’t history and reality fascinating?