Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Milwaukee Madness: The Holiday Tree vs. The Christmas Tree

When people see a large tree covered in lights and ornaments in the middle of the city in winter, does the thought, “My, what a wonderful Holiday Tree!” go through their minds, or do they think Christmas? The Milwaukee Common Council seems to believe the latter. In Milwaukee, the tree was called a Christmas tree from 1913 until 1995, when the name was changed to “Holiday Tree”. This is the first time since then that it has been switched back to being called a “Christmas Tree”.

The city’s tree should be called what it is: a Christmas Tree. What other holidays have a special tree to celebrate aside from Christmas? There is no Hanukah tree. There is no Kwanzaa tree. There is only a Christmas tree. Therefore, it makes sense to call it one.

So now we’re calling it a Christmas tree. How exactly does this pressure people into accepting Christianity? It would be like arguing that every time someone sees a crucifix, they’re being pressured into accepting Christianity. You don’t see the city trying to place sanctions on what you call a cross. No one is forcing anyone to have a Christmas tree in their own home, bake Christmas cookies, wish everyone a Merry Christmas, or put little baby Jesus figurines on their lawn. The tree is simply a public object that sits there. It isn’t attacking anyone or personally harassing them to celebrate Christmas or welcome Christianity into their lives. It’s just a tree!

Christmas is simply a widely-accepted holiday in the U.S. Mail doesn’t go out, businesses are closed, and there are decorations and parades around the city. People even get out of work to celebrate the holiday! No one seems to mind getting a day of paid vacation for Christmas, so why should they mind a simple public Christmas tree?

One argument made by Milwaukee officials like Alderman Mike D’Amato is that public money is being spent on the tree, yet symbols for other religions and their holidays are not being represented. If this is a serious issue, then maybe there should be a private donation of the tree to the city. Also, if public funding would still be in use, there could be public funding for symbols of other religious holidays as requested by the public, too. This way, it will not be “inclusive” to strictly those celebrating Christmas and can expand to other celebrations as well. If the demand is there, it can be met by the city. Then there can be equal representation of holidays. This would be a reasonable way to deal with the argument and hopefully satisfy more Milwaukee residents who are upset about the decision to make the tree a Christmas Tree again.

There is a distinct difference between being politically correct and defeating the purpose of something even existing by taking away any defining characteristic it originally had. What is there to be excited about if you can’t even define what you’re celebrating? No matter what is celebrated, be it Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or nothing at all, people should be allowed to celebrate and call a Christmas tree what it is: a Christmas tree.

By: Isabella Carini (editorial 1)

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