Taking a cue from Wisconsin, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee is calling Rhode Island’s state tree a “holiday tree”, despite a resolution passed by the State Legislature earlier in the year declaring that the tree customarily erected this time of year be referred to â€œas a â€˜Christmas treeâ€™ and not as a â€˜holiday treeâ€™ or other non-traditional terms.â€
â€œI would encourage all those engaged in this discussion – whatever their opinion on the matter – to use their energy and enthusiasm to make a positive difference in the lives of their fellow Rhode Islanders,â€ Chafee said, offering an initiative to feed the needy as a good place to start.
But critics of Chafeeâ€™s seasonal semantics said the independent governor is taking political correctness too far â€” and defying the will of the Legislature.
The resolutionâ€™s sponsor, Rep. Doreen Costa, said she plans to erect and decorate a tree at her Statehouse office on Dec. 6, the same day Chafee plans to host a tree lighting event. Costa said sheâ€™ll be taking up a collection of canned goods.
â€œAnybody that wants to go see a holiday tree can do so, but I will be decorating a Christmas tree,â€ Costa, R-North Kingstown, told The Associated Press. â€œIt may only be a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree but at least it will be a Christmas tree.â€
Chafee isnâ€™t the first Rhode Island governor to refer to the annual Statehouse tree as a â€˜holidayâ€™ tree. His predecessor, Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri, used both â€˜holiday treeâ€™ and â€˜Christmas treeâ€™ in his correspondence. Other past governors have made no specific reference to Christmas at all with invitations to â€œholiday celebrationsâ€ featuring a â€œtree lighting.â€
The 17-foot Colorado blue spruce at the center of the holiday hullabaloo was donated to the state by Big John Leydenâ€™s Christmas Tree Farm in West Greenwich, R.I. Tree farmer John Leyden said heâ€™s disappointed with Chafeeâ€™s yuletide word choice.
â€œItâ€™s not a holiday tree or even an â€˜X-masâ€™ tree,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™re a Christmas tree farm, thatâ€™s what the name is.â€
Chafee insists heâ€™s just respecting the stateâ€™s history as a place respectful of all religions.
The colonyâ€™s hands-off policy toward religion quickly attracted sects that had been persecuted elsewhere. Rhode Island boasts both the nationâ€™s first Baptist church and the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue.