Rhode Island’s governor, Lincoln Chaffee, has told lawmakers to quit complaining that he’s decided to call the Statehouse’s latest fixture a “holiday tree” rather than a “Christmas tree”.
It’s interesting that the lawmakers fail to recognize the irony here, namely that “Christmas trees” are actually condemned in the Bible. Here is Jeremiah sounding forth: “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. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk” (Jeremiah 10:2-5).
And indeed, the use of decorated trees really started as a pagan ritual. Branches would be lopped from evergreen trees and brought indoors to celebrate the winter solstice: the persistently green leaves were a reminder of the eventual return of spring.
Henry Schwan, the first pastor to erect a Christmas tree in his church was roundly condemned by his congregation for adopting a pagan tradition.
Perhaps, then, Christians should actively promote the use of the term “holiday tree” – it is more consistent with their religious heritage.