Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called this a “holiday tree” while House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., referred to it as a “Christmas tree” during the 43rd annual lighting of the “U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree”
The omission by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., of the word “Christmas” when addressing those who watched this week’s lighting of the 65-foot Pacific Silver Fir that this year is serving as the “Capitol Christmas Tree” apparently was no oversight.
As WND exclusively reported, Murray rebuffed instructions given last year by Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., that the national tree in front of the U.S. Capitol be referred to as the “Capitol Christmas Tree,” after having been called the “Capitol Holiday Tree” since the 1990s. During the lighting ceremony, the Democrat senator from the tree’s home state never used the word “Christmas” in her speech to the assembled crowd, opting instead for the term “holiday tree” twice.
“She was speaking to a crowd, and she said what she said. This is the holiday season, we’re just thrilled that the tree is from Washington state. It’s just a time to bring everybody together to celebrate the season,” Alex Glass, Murray’s communications director, told WND.
When asked if there were any objection to calling the tree a “Christmas tree,” she said the senator doesn’t have a policy.
“I think, you know, whatever people want to call it, we are accepting of all of it,” Glass said. “It’s a time to remember what the season is about.”
And that is? Celebrating, of course.
And what are we celebrating?
“The season,” Glass said.
And what is the season?
“I’m not going to get into semantics with you guys,” she said.
Thus, Glass was as successful at keeping “Christmas” out of a discussion about “the season” as Murray was at keeping it out of her comments about the tree at the lighting ceremony.
“It is so wonderful and such an honor to be here tonight in the nation’s capital as we light what we all believe from the other end of the country is the best holiday tree ever,” Murray said at the event.
Sen. Patty Murray
“I am very proud of everyone in my home state who helped make this happen – all of our staffs who worked so hard; everyone who helped bring this tree out here; everyone who has worked incredibly hard, especially the young children who helped decorate this tree. So, tonight, we share with the nation what makes our state so spectacular: a bit of our spirit, a holiday tree.”
Murray, who has been elected conference secretary of the Senate Democrat Caucus for the coming session of Congress, was called on to make comments when the traditional tree in front of the Capitol – not the National Christmas Tree which is a living tree at the White House – was illuminated this week.
Alan Hantman, the architect of the Capitol, also called it “the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree” and Murray’s address was followed shortly later by a performance by the National Presbyterian School Chorus, whose members sang, “O Christmas Tree.”
Then Hastert followed, saying:
- “Well, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you tonight. It’s one of the most wonderful nights of the year when we can come together and light our National Christmas Tree.”
- “This year, I’m honored to be here yet again to light the Capitol Christmas Tree.”
- “As we go into this Christmas season and begin the celebration with our family and friends, I would hope that this year we spend time reflecting on the true reason for the season of Christmas.”
- “The Christmas season really is about children. So we thought we’d bring some children along to help light the Christmas tree.”
According to a website about the tree, it is decorated with 10,000 lights and 3,000 ornaments handmade by school children from across Washington State.
The lighting of the tree, by the speaker of the House, is a tradition that was begun in 1964. This year’s fir was chosen by Ted Bechtol, deputy superintendent of Capitol grounds, from the Olympic National Forest on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula.
A report from the Capitol architect’s offices said the Capitol Christmas Tree, after years with that designation, had been renamed the holiday tree “in an effort” to acknowledge the other holidays of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah, although no one could say who gave that order.
So last year Hastert ordered the change rescinded.
The issue has come up in other locations, too. Last year in Boston the city was threatened with a lawsuit if the Boston Christmas tree wasn’t called the Boston Christmas tree.
“To rename a Christmas tree as a holiday tree is as offensive as renaming a Jewish menorah a candlestick,” Mathew Staver, general counsel of Liberty Counsel, said at that time.