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Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree! December 13, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Ramblings.
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This is the story as I understand it:

Because the holiday season is in full swing, the folks at Seattle’s Tacoma International Airport decided to get into the spirit of things and put up some decorations, among which included several Christmas trees. Upon noticing this, a rabbi brought to the attention of the airport management that the airport should also have Hannukah symbols on premises, and expressed the desire to add a menorah (or two) to the display by, according to some accounts, threatening a lawsuit to that effect.

In response, the airport promptly had the trees taken down, which set off a brief flurry of (unwanted) publicity and equally impassioned reactions from all sides concerned.

I must admit: the Catholic schoolboy in me finds this bizarre on so many levels. But what I find most peculiar about the entire incident is how so many people (and the principals in particular) have missed the point completely: that the “Christmas tree” really has little to do with the religious celebration of Christmas. In fact, it’s probably as secular a symbol for the holidays as one can find, despite the many vocal objections of aggrieved Christians that the Christmas tree is part and parcel of Christmas.

(It is tempting to think that Santa is an even more secular symbol, but this is only partly true. It should be pointed out that children have been known to pray to Santa as if he were God, which I suppose to the eyes of a four year-old comes pretty close. In contrast, I doubt there has been anyone who’s actually prayed to a Christmas tree. But I digress.)

To some extent, this is perhaps just than another example of the American penchant for political correctness and litigation gone awry. But more than that it is also a sad commentary about how, even in a multicultural society such as the United States, very little is really understood about how different cultures work, sometimes even by those belonging to the culture in question.

I gather that the Christmas trees at Tacoma are back up and on display again, much to the satisfaction of travelers, airport personnel and even the rabbi that set these events into motion (who never in his wildest dreams meant for any of this to happen, it appears). I can’t help but wonder, though, whether it’s just a matter of time before some other misguided push for political correctness or equality of this-or-that rears its ugly head. It wouldn’t be too difficult to imagine, for instance, some nut protesting that Rudolph gets far more play than the other reindeer.

I pray my Christmas tree that doesn’t happen anytime soon.

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Comments»

1. Jan Vincent - December 13, 2006

the Christmas tree really does have its roots in Catholic faith as a means of converting the barbarians. Also, the fact is that it is called a CHRISTmas tree. Yet,I agree that it has become a secular symbol of peace and all things good.
I find it amusing to see a Jew interested in CHRISTmas tree but ultimately not in Christ himself. Also, I want to gripe that I find it unfair that Catholic traditions can be tweaked by the public but know one plays around with Hanukah or Ramadan. Anyhoo, it doesn’t matter because it would be uncatholic in spirit to not share.:)

2. Brian L. Belen - December 13, 2006

Hmm…after some knee-jerk “research” on my part (I seem to have forgotten that it’s best to get my facts straight before expressing my opinions), I can’t find anything definitive along the lines you mention. It seems plausible, but it does sound like a stretch.

I don’t, however, find much currency in the argument that it must have something to do with Christ just because it’s called a Christmas tree. That seems a bit superfluous.

And here I am nitpicking away. Sheesh! I stop now.


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