Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Conifor or Conagainst

Maybe I could title this Proifer and Conifer instead. It's hard to decide. Anyway, over the last several weeks I've heard KQRS weigh in on the side of Christmas trees not being Christian symbols, but symbols of the American holiday season. Then I heard MPR discuss how upset some people are about Christmas trees in their space because they're Christian while Christians defend them as being a general symbol of the season. Then J. Dennis Hastert gets his undies in a bunch about the Capitol Holiday Tree (courtesy, The Blotter), and Jerry Falwell gets all uppity about holiday trees in Boston and wants to fight anyone who spreads misinformation about religious symbols. Then again the Catholic League has a problem with Christmas trees, noting:

Secular symbols, such as Christmas trees, Santa Claus, reindeer, and candy canes, if placed prominently around a nativity scene, can downplay what a reasonable observer would otherwise see as a government endorsement of religion.

And likewise at the Liberty Counsel's National Liberty Journal:

The truth is simple. A publicly sponsored nativity scene or Christmas pageant is constitutional so long as within the context there are both secular and sacred symbols or messages. For example, a nativity scene sponsored by city hall on
city hall property is constitutional so long as within the context of the nativity scene there is some secular symbol of the holiday such as Santa Claus, reindeer, or a Christmas tree.
It's all very confusing. For example, what if it's fake? Then it's not even really an evergreen and was never alive - can it be Christian in that context? And is it Christian to cut down a symbol whose primary importance is that it's evergreen and represents a renewal of life, eventually tossing it out on the corner as rubbish when you've proven that you can actually turn it brown? And how Christian is it if German priests have been complaining about it distracting from the word of God since the 17th century? Likewise that Catholics considered it a Protestant thang. Not to mention it's down right unpatriotic:

In Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced by King George III's German Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, but did not spread much beyond the royal family until the royal family Christmas centered round Prince Albert at Osborne House was illustrated in English magazines, and copied in the United States at Christmas 1850. Such patriotic prints of the British royal family at Christmas celebrations helped popularise the Christmas tree in Britain and among the anglophile American upper class.

And I don't think we should even get started on the idea of the Hanukkah Bush, regardless of Rabbi Ron Isaacs assertion that:

Today it is clear to me that the tree has become a secular symbol of the American commercial Christmas holiday, and not of the birth of Jesus. So, whether or not to have one depends on the character and judgement of each individual family. There are certainly Jewish families that feel that they can have a tree in the house without subscribing to the Christian element of the holiday.
Fortunately for me, if I really do decide my fake Christmas tree is a bit too Christiany for my tastes, without the branches on it, it makes a perfect aluminum Festivus pole.


LissyJo said...

Funny: I was just going to research the hx of the xmas tree. I heard the same MPR story. Is your tree fake?

Our household has been trying to figure out a way to have family traditions (ie xmas tree) without emphasizing the whole "Christ-thing" or the over-commercialization. I don't believe in the divinity of Christ, but i celebrate christmas and i *love* christmas music. How can i explain this to my daughter? One of my friends with a new baby is going to start celebrating winter solstice. But where does that leave family traditions?

Anonymous said...

I've never thought of the christmas tree as being a religious symbol. Every year I look forward to putting it up, pulling out the ornaments and remembering where we got them - all the while eating popcorn, drinking hot chocolate and listening to xmas music. This year was not quite as festive, since it was a rush to get the tree up before Conner could tear it down, but it's my plan for the future! Plus, you could get Baby ornaments every year and as she gets older, have fun remembering where/why you got them.

Anonymous said...

Grandpa Harry's ornaments!

Anonymous said...

Just can't win sometimes - I think we all have better things to worry about than Christmas Tree - makes you wonder what freedom is all about if we can't put up a simple tree and throw lights and ornaments on it