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Holiday Op-Ed: Christmas Tree or Holiday Tree?

[By Bob Baird] [Guest Writer]

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Snow is falling gently outside; the landscape is blanketed in a lovely shade of white, thirsty patrons wait in line at coffee shops for peppermint-spiced lattes and other frivolous drinks. I’m sitting here on this dark December night sipping cocoa from my signature Santa Christmas cup. As I stir the marshmallows around in my mug, my fellows Annexers (of the Arts Annex theme house) are discussing the Christmas tree in Dana dining hall. One of my comrades adds, “It’s totally in the way; it’s a fire hazard.” Another Annexer notes, “Can they even have a Christmas tree?” The librarian on duty looks over and says, “I think it’s a holiday tree; it’s non denominational.” Today there is a hot debate on whether a Christmas tree should be called a Christmas tree or a holiday tree (or whether a holiday tree should be… you get the point).

Before this conversation I had never heard the phrase, Holiday tree. Is it a different type of pine? Maybe it is not even of the same species of flora. I looked to the inter web for further clarification on this pressing issue. It turns out that a holiday tree is the same thing as a Christmas tree! It is just a non-denominational version! That means that anyone who is celebrating the spirit of winter can decorate their home with a lovely Balsam Fir (one of the most popular species of Christmas tree).

My research also led me to the roots of decorating trees around this time of year. The Egyptians decorated their homes with palm leaves to praise the Sun god, Ra (Google this guy! He has a birdbrain! Literally!), who had been injured by the spirit of winter. The Winter solstice is symbolic of a healing process; it marks the shift from the death in autumn, and early winter to life in the spring. The Vikings of Scandinavia believed that evergreens were a symbolic plant of the sun god. The Romans celebrated Saturn, the god of the harvest, by having a giant feast at the winter solstice. It became clear that this ritual was not a solely Christian one.

The OG (Original Gangster) Christmas tree comes from Germany. The Germanic Tribes who were adopting Christianity brought this tradition with them into their practices. They would garnish these trees with apples and other fruits to symbolize a bountiful harvest. The first person to actually put lights on the tree was Martin Luther, a protestant reformer. He was inspired one night when he was looking out at the stars sparkling behind an evergreen. Edward Johnson, an assistant to Thomas Edison, created electric Christmas lights to replace the dangerous candles, which often set pines on fire.

Queen Victoria, and German Price Albert would bring Christmas trees into the mainstream when she and her family were depicted by the London News decorating a tree. By 1990, one in five American families owned a Christmas tree. This year, over a hundred million trees will be on display world wide, including the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center (Just picture Tina Fey, and Alec Baldwin standing under it).

After all this research on the history of the Christmas Tree, I’ve come to the conclusion that the term holiday tree is more applicable than the term Christmas Tree, especially in public settings where people of many denominations can gather to celebrate an ancient symbol of the winter solstice. However, my voice is just one voice. So I toured the campus to see what other Laurentians thought. Here are some of the responses I received when I asked my question, “Christmas tree or Holiday tree?”

“Holiday tree, because so many non-Christians have them in their homes.”

“Christmas Tree because it’s synonymous with the holiday of Christmas.”

“People Should call them whatever they want to call them.”

“Holiday tree because I’m an Atheist.”

“Christmas Tree, because that’s what I grew up calling it.”

“Is that what Christ is nailed too?”

Clearly this is a hotly debated topic. I for one believe it’s a Holiday tree (Unless there’s an Angel on top), but frankly I don’t give a damn what you call it. Good Night, and Good Luck.

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