“Christmas” Trees vs. “Holiday” Trees

By Christina Spires '16

On Oct. 22, 2015, Starbucks revealed its new holiday cup. While other cups have been red, this year’s differs in the sense that it is only red, without designs or the words “Merry Christmas.” After the release of this year’s cup, Starbucks came under harsh scrutiny when customers claimed that design was, as NBC describes it, part of a “War on Christmas” and the Christian religion.

The City Manager in Eugene, Ore. in 2000 believed that Christmas trees could not be put on state property, given that the government is not supposed to endorse any particular religion. Instances such as this began to arise in recent years as cities began to rename their trees “giving trees” and “holiday trees” to become more inclusive. Following suit, hardware retailer Lowe’s began calling their trees “family trees.”

The annual Tree Lighting at the White House. (Photo: The White House)

The annual Tree Lighting at the White House. (Photo: The White House)

This shift is also followed by many different reactions. The late Cardinal Francis George expressed to the Huffington Post that “the Christmas tree doesn’t even have religious origins so it doesn’t make much difference” that the name is being changed. He continues, saying that referring to them as “Christmas Trees” is “not inclusive, it’s exclusive.”

Despite calm reactions from understanding religious leaders, there has been an uproar within Christian communities, demanding trees be referred to their “original” names. The Los Angeles Times reported that during a tree-lighting ceremony in Rhode Island, “protesters drowned out a children’s choral performance by belting out ‘O Christmas Tree’ as the youngsters were singing another song,” making this the second year in a row that this community event became a “disrespectful gathering.”

Although there is a spectrum of emotions surrounding this controversy, there is one thing that Christians and non-Christians alike can agree on: having these seasonal trees around is nice. The Atlantic describes the presence of these trees as “cheery,” and as a “reminder of peace and good will,” which is important to keep in mind as this season is one of togetherness and celebration, regardless of religious affiliation.