by Edd Doerr
The Nov 30 Washington Times (you know, the rag founded by the Moonies) ran not one but two stories on the same page about the fuss being made in Rhode Island over Governor Lincoln Chafee putting a "holiday tree" in the statehouse instead of a "Christmas tree". Chafee pointed out that the tree "stands mere feet from the Royal Charter that, more than three centuries ago, granted 'a full liberty in religious concernments' and 'the free exercise and enjoyment of all their civil and religious rights' to the inhabitants of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." Chafee added that "I would encourage all those engaged in this discussion -- whatever their opinion on the matter -- to use their energy and enthusiasm to make a positive difference in the lives of their fellow Rhode Islanders." Good for the guv!
Some reminders for the Christmasphiles in Rhode Island: 1. Your state was founded by Roger Willians, the guy who introduced the idea of separation of church and state to America. 2. The Puritans who settled New England strongly opposed the celebration of Christmas -- it was too Catholic or Anglican -- and they were the spiritual ancestors of the conservative Christians who today have hissy fits about the "secular humanist" efforts to drive God out of the US of A. 3. Christmas was not a legal holiday in all states until late in the 19th century. 4. The "Christmas tree" is an adaptation of the winter solstice tree used in pre-Christian pagan northern Europe to herald the return of the sun.
Fifty years ago I lived for a couple of years in predominantly Catholic Colombia. Christmas was celebrated there for a week with fireworks. And Christmas trees were a recent innovation imported from the US.
An aside: If Jesus were to visit the US today, one wonders what he would think of the potlatch of outdoor illuminated junk -- Santas, reindeer, lights, etc -- proliferating like a new disease in our neighborhoods, using coal-generated electricity and wasting zillions of dollars while millions of our fellow citizens go hungry.