Gov. Scott Walker calls a Christmas tree what it is

posted at 7:40 pm on November 8, 2011 by Tina Korbe

Yet another reason to respect and admire Gov. Scott Walker, who manages to remain perfectly comfortable with himself, his convictions and his decisions in the face of unpopularity. His latest little stand might have flown under the radar, had not the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation expressed an objection:

On Monday, Walker decided that he wanted to shake things up a bit. Rather than following recent tradition and referring to the (Christmas) tree that is placed in the Wisconsin’s Capitol Rotunda as a “holiday tree,” he’s changing course. For the past 25 years, lawmakers have referred to the evergreen that is decorated with ornaments and a star with this benign, uncategorized reference. Now, Walker plans to, once again, call the tree what it is — a Christmas tree. …

Rather than making a big deal out of the change, the governor simply put out a press release that referred to the holiday decoration as a Christmas tree. The release doesn’t note that any change in reference occurred.

But when asked, spokesman Cullen Werwei confirmed that the decision was intentional. “It’s a Christmas tree,” Werwei said. “In all honesty, I don’t know what more to say about it.” In the Charleston Daily Mail, Don Surber echoed this sentiment, writing, “Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin just ended 25 years of stupidity.”

Not everyone agrees, though. The infamous Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group of atheists and “freethinkers,” doesn’t plan to let the change go unnoticed. Annie Laurie Gaylor, the group’s president, called the decision both rude and insensitive to non-Christians.

What’s funny is, atheistic sensitivity invests Walker’s decision with even more meaning than it might otherwise have. To attach “Christmas” as a descriptor to the tree is simply to reflect that decorated evergreens have been a part of the American Christmas tradition for some time.

For the record, though, they haven’t always been. Just for fun, a little Christmas tree history:

Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

It is not surprising that, like many other festive Christmas customs, the tree was adopted so late in America. To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The pilgrims‘s second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out “pagan mockery” of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.” In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.

At one time, then, calling a Christmas tree a “Christmas tree” might have offended Christians. Point is, it’s impossible to please everyone — so kudos to Walker for dropping the political correct routine and not caring what people think. Walker calling the tree a “Christmas tree” doesn’t stop Gaylor or anyone else from calling it a “holiday tree.” Nor does it force Christianity on anyone. In fact — check it — Christmas trees aren’t even essential to the practice of Christianity (arguably not a part of the practice at all … just a cultural element). Shocker, right? You could even have a Christmas tree — and call it that — and be an atheist. So, let it go, Gaylor. Let it go.


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President Obama’s Agriculture Department today announced that it will impose a new 15-cent charge on all fresh Christmas trees—the Christmas Tree Tax—to support a new Federal program to improve the image and marketing of Christmas trees.

http://blog.heritage.org/2011/11/08/obama-couldnt-wait-his-new-christmas-tree-tax/

davidk on November 8, 2011 at 10:34 PM

It makes no sense that a “Holiday Tree” is acceptable, but a “Christmas Tree” is somehow offensive. What holiday do they think it’s for?

JetBoy on November 8, 2011 at 8:06 PM

Either winter solstice, or Festivus, I reckon…

/

massrighty on November 8, 2011 at 10:44 PM

I fully support an Athiest holiday, sometime around April.. They can respect my holiday, while not participating, and I will respect theirs.

kringeesmom on November 8, 2011 at 7:52 PM

August has no meaningful holiday, and needs one.

I suggest the second Friday in August, or the third Monday, be unbelief day.

Cookouts, without any overt symbolism.

In place of hymns, we’ll use “Monday, Monday” by the Mommas and the Papas, or (even better,) (Monday I’ll have) Friday on my mind, by the Easybeats.

Perfection. Drunken revelry, without any of the trappings of our more symbolic festive occasions.

massrighty on November 8, 2011 at 10:52 PM

Wanna bet these twerps wouldn’t have the balls to call mohammed a phony, murdering pedophile?

Wanna bet these dweebs wouldn’t dare call a Chanukah bush a shrub?

Wanna bet these trannies and losers have had a sex operation?

Twana on November 8, 2011 at 11:35 PM

So, let it go, Gaylor. Let it go.

It will never happen. I was there long enough to know that Annie Laurie Gaylor will never give it up – not as long as it gets her media coverage….

LL

Lady Logician on November 8, 2011 at 11:59 PM

Jeremiah 10:2-4 has Jehovah giving an interesting take:

This is what the Lord says: “Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.”

Mark Jaquith on November 9, 2011 at 1:06 AM

Jeremiah would have pretty dramatically preceded even the most ancient Christmas traditions, Mark. What on earth do you suppose he’s talking about?

Jaibones on November 9, 2011 at 6:34 AM

They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.”

Mark Jaquith on November 9, 2011 at 1:06 AM

No silver or gold on my tree. Also I have never used a hammer or nail for our Christmas tree.

Nice try mark.

CW on November 9, 2011 at 6:43 AM

Guess what? I strolled into Target today….the first banner I spy hanging from the ceiling, not 15 feet from the entrance, shouts MERRY CHRISTMAS in green mylar glory.
My kids had to keep me from falling over!
You go, Target!
(located in Sturgeon Bay, WI)

herm2416 on November 9, 2011 at 7:15 AM

Not everyone agrees, though. The infamous Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group of atheists and “freethinkers,”

If you keep bragging to people that you are “freethinkers”….

DethMetalCookieMonst on November 9, 2011 at 7:54 AM

Jeremiah would have pretty dramatically preceded even the most ancient Christmas traditions, Mark. What on earth do you suppose he’s talking about?

Jaibones on November 9, 2011 at 6:34 AM

He’s talking about not bringing trees commemorating pagan holidays into the house and decorating them; also known as a Christmas tree.

I love the way Xians find a way to tap dance around a very clear and unequivocal Bible verse when they don’t want to give up their cherished pagan traditions.

Holly wreath, yule log, mistletoe; all pagan.
Oh, and the Easter Bunny too.

chumpThreads on November 9, 2011 at 8:21 AM

Its quite pathetic that the atheists complaining define their entire personality on the fact that they don’t believe in something.

DavidM on November 9, 2011 at 8:31 AM

Why should we pander to atheists bigotry?

LarryD on November 9, 2011 at 8:52 AM

chumpThreads on November 9, 2011 at 8:21 AM

Quite true chumpThreads. Only untill I looked into how the early christian churches were infiltrated by Pagans did I learn all the symbols we see as part of christmas have their origins in false religions. I must have been on to this as a child because early on, I could never get the connection between the resurection of Christ with some rabbit that lays eggs. I wasn’t all that popular with our Lutheran pastor during Easter Egg hunts at church either.

Its carried over into my adult/married life as my wife’s family is devout Catholics. They certainly didn’t like finding out where the Pagan phallic symbol of the tree came from. Whooo boy.

Satan is very content in mixing lies with some truth so he can divert the sheep from the correct path.

44Magnum on November 9, 2011 at 8:56 AM

Thanks for the history lesson, Tina, but the Puritans in Massachusetts aren’t the be all end all of Christmas “tradition” in the US. They may not have even been the earliest Christian tradition-builders in their colony. Regardless of all that, American traditions have a life and purpose of their own, even when – maybe even especially when – they incorporate ideas from outside sources, be they secular or non-secular. Unlike other countries, you don’t have to be born here to be just as American as anyone else. All the more reason then, like Gov. Walker, to embrace, rather than diminish, the ties that bind. As an aside, I’m willing to bet that ‘lay’ members of the Freedom From Religion Foundation fully embrace the tradition of ‘leave with full pay’ for Christmas day.

Knott Buyinit on November 9, 2011 at 9:03 AM

I trust that on December 25 – when it falls on a workday – that all atheists will be at their desks, working diligently rather than taking the day off with us Christians. Same with Good Friday. If they object so much to observances of religious holidays then they should skip the paid day off that goes with so many of them.

KrisinNE on November 9, 2011 at 9:25 AM

The Christmas season begins bringing us stories of the campaign to rub out mention of the actual holiday.

Why do so many atheists believe their right to non-belief extends to prohibiting others from expressing their beliefs?

RDuke on November 9, 2011 at 10:04 AM

I, along with my entire family, am an atheist and have been celebrating Christmas every year my whole life. We don’t have any sort of religious ties to the holiday, but we all get work off at the same time so we celebrate the tradition. Some atheists are a little too sensitive in my opinion; call the tree what it is and if you want to protest, get the tree itself removed and replaced (with festivus for the rest of us).

We’ve dabbled in the idea of having our holiday “celebration” a week after Christmas since prices on everything is much cheaper, but we don’t get the time off work unfortunately.

Sumeet on November 9, 2011 at 10:13 AM

Atheists might be a little more honest if they’d ask the tree be removed entirely. But they wouldn’t do that, of course.

lorien1973 on November 8, 2011 at 8:24 PM

That’s what has always bugged me about this. They think it’s unconstitutional for the government to acknowledges the holiday, but they want to be able to celebrate it, so they just insist that everyone pretend it’s something that it isn’t.

That way they get to tell everyone what to do, AND get Dec. 25th off.

Bobbertsan on November 9, 2011 at 10:16 AM

Merry Christmas, Governor Walker.

Steve Z on November 9, 2011 at 10:20 AM

I love the way Xians find a way to tap dance around a very clear and unequivocal Bible verse when they don’t want to give up their cherished pagan traditions.

We also eat pork (and several other decidedly non-kosher foods), and cherish cheeseburgers (Exodus 23:19). Those are also forbidden in the Old Testament. There’s also a reason why converts to Christianity are not required to convert to Judaism first.

Hint: Matthew 16:19. Tap shoes not required.

Dang. Now I’m hungry for a double-bacon cheeseburger.

I R A Darth Aggie on November 9, 2011 at 10:33 AM

I can see the lunatic liberals now: “Wisconsin needs this, that and the other thing, but all Walker thinks about is what to call some stupid tree.” Not even thinking that it is those idiots who started all this in the first place. Protesting and pressuring, complaining to legislators, trying to put through bills, all because they don’t want people to call a Christmas tree for what it is. Liberalism really is a mental disorder, isn’t it?!

Sterling Holobyte on November 9, 2011 at 12:56 PM

I fully support an Athiest holiday, sometime around April.. They can respect my holiday, while not participating, and I will respect theirs.
kringeesmom on November 8, 2011 at 7:52 PM

April fools’ day?

MeatHeadinCA on November 8, 2011 at 8:02 PM

Wouldn’t that be insensitive to fools? Even fools have feelings.

Solaratov on November 9, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Our trolls our a low quality bunch. Where do we get some better ones???

CW on November 8, 2011 at 10:22 PM

You have to order them early – before the Christmas rush. Otherwise, all that’re left are the pablo honeys.

Solaratov on November 9, 2011 at 3:47 PM

Our Christmas tree is plastic. Uh Oh, I have now offended environmentalists since it is made using oil. Oh wait, they might like that I won’t be cutting down a real tree. Are athiest environmentalists offended by plastic trees if I call it a Christmas tree? Uhhhh, now that I think about it…I DON’T CARE!

crazedarmenian on November 9, 2011 at 6:36 PM

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