When Democrats won control of Congress in November’s election, the victory may have reignited a controversy many Americans thought had been settled a year ago – and that is what to call the national tree in front of the U.S. Capitol.

In 2005, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., instructed federal officials to refer to it as the “Capitol Christmas Tree,” after having been called the “Capitol Holiday Tree” since the 1990s.

But at last night’s lighting ceremony for the 65-foot Pacific Silver Fir, the Democrat senator from the tree’s home state of Washington never used the word “Christmas” in her speech to the assembled crowd, opting instead for the term “holiday tree” twice.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called this a “holiday tree” while House Speaker Dennis Hastert referred to it as a “Christmas tree” during last night’s 43rd annual lighting of the “U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree”

“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,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

“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 was in the minority in her use of “holiday tree,” as the event’s master of ceremonies, Alan Hantman, the architect of the Capitol, called it “the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.”

Additionally, Murray was immediately followed by a performance by the National Presbyterian School Chorus, which sang “O Christmas Tree.”

When it finally came to the actual lighting of the decorations, House Speaker Hastert used the word “Christmas” at least a dozen times, and referred to the tree itself exclusively as a “Christmas tree.”

Some of Hastert’s remarks included:

  • “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.”

In November of last year, WND broke the news that the national home-improvement chain Lowe’s was using the term “holiday trees” in English, but “Christmas trees” when translated from Spanish on the same banners.

Banner at Lowe’s store in Austin, Texas, in 2005 advertised “Holiday” trees in English, but “Christmas” trees in Spanish

And at last year’s tree-lighting ceremony, President Bush sparked controversy when some thought he casually compared Jesus Christ to Santa Claus.

As WND reported, flanked by the first lady, as well as members of Congress and the Cabinet, Bush told the public at the 2005 event: “The lighting of the National Christmas Tree is one of the great traditions in our nation’s capital. Each year, we gather here to celebrate the season of hope and joy – and to remember the story of one humble life that lifted the sights of humanity. Santa, thanks for coming. Glad you made it.”

The remark received a few chuckles from those in attendance, as Bush continued to speak to a Santa Claus figure, stating, “I know you’ve got a lot of commitments this time of year. By the way, we have a lot of chimneys at the White House if you’re looking for something to do.”

Then-presidential Press Secretary Scott McClellan told reporters Bush “meant exactly what he said,” but later clarified his remarks to note that Bush was not comparing Jesus with Santa Claus, but was merely changing topics.

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