Keller @ Large: It’s A *Christmas* Tree, Just Call It That

BOSTON (CBS) – Believe me, I didn’t want to do another story this year about timid bureaucrats and their politically-correct insistence on avoiding any mention of the word “Christmas.”

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

But here we go again, with not just one but two state capitals embroiled in completely avoidable seasonal nonsense.

Read: Guide To Finding A Christmas Tree

Let’s start in Providence, Rhode Island, where Gov. Lincoln Chafee is referring to the Christmas tree in front of the State House as a “holiday tree.”

According to the Associated Press, Chafee says this is in line with his state’s tradition as a safe-haven for religious tolerance and separation of church and state.

And he says: “I would encourage all those engaged in this discussion…to use their energy and enthusiasm to make a positive difference in the lives of their fellow Rhode Islanders.”

Gov. Chafee might follow his own advice, and stop wasting his time gratuitously slighting the overwhelming majority of his state’s residents, who do recognize Christmas.

Show me someone who is truly aggrieved by the erection of a Christmas tree at Christmastime in a public place and I’ll show you a crank, the ignoring of whom ought to be a minimal standard of political leadership.

But kudos go out to Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who was appalled when I told him yesterday that his own Parks Department was refusing to identify the Christmas tree in Copley Square as a Christmas tree.

Menino boldly says he “believes in Christmas and believes in Christmas trees,” and promised to lean on the Parks Department to cut it out.

A few hours later he still hadn’t gotten around to it; a department spokeswoman told me: the Copley Square tree is “a public decoration to celebrate the holidays,” which people celebrate “in different ways.”

I have three words for her, Gov. Chaffee, and everyone else who still thinks it’s the right thing to do to pretend a Christmas tree can’t be called by its proper name – please, stop it.

And have a very Merry Christmas.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

More from Jon Keller
  • matt souza

    the tradition of the tree is not in the other holidays it is strictly Christian tradition. The usa has a mix but the main holiday is christmas. the people that selebrate the other religions have to deal with it.we need to remember that it is a christmas tree not holiday tree since it is not for any other religious holiday.

    • Ed Turner

      I do not press upon those that use the symbolic candle of lights the “Menorah” is wrong like the Christmas tree a it came about later and was not a feature practiced during the origins of the celebratory time. Maybe here in America the brewing pot of ethnics and the brewing pot of political and religious correctness the people here should read Christmas worldwide or Around the World. Why to get a better understanding that Christians and there beliefs are being bullied.

    • Gordie

      Except that the use of evergreen trees as decoration inside homes at this time of year goes MUCH earlier than Christianity. The Christmas Tree, such as it is, is a co-opted solstice symbol.

    • Ellen

      Matt, Right ON.

    • Mandoberks

      Like Gordie states, the so called “christmas tree” is an adapted pagan tradition into christianity, is there a christmas tree mentioned in the bible? This is more of a political stunt than an insult to christianity, In fact if you are a christian and read the bible, you would probably be glad that santa claus and the christmas tree are being disassociated with christ’s birth. trust me this is a recent tradition, christians before during the second century where not celebrating the birth of their savior by putting up a tree.

    • donny

      This is the BIGGEST NON-ISSUE out there.

      Call it whatever you want. I’s a free country… quickly filling up with over-sensitive whiners of all race, color and creed. Jeez! Let’s focus only something important other than those among us so easily offended.

  • Lori_Spencer

    We have the tree for Christmas, the Menorah for Haunakah (forgive me if I mispell) and other items for other holidays. If we must be tolerant of other holidays (as we should be) then others must be tolerant of ours. It is what it is and lets call it by such… A CHRISTmas tree!!! You know the old adage… a rose by any other name wouldn’t smell as sweet!!! You cheapen the meaning of the Christmas tree when calling it by another name.

  • Dave H

    What’s next? Censoring Christmas Carols? Calling them Holiday Carols? I’m Dreaming of a White Holiday? Have a Holly Jolly Holiday? We Wish You a Merry Holiday?

    • Ceecilia

      NO Way! Holiday is from Holy day so it is also a racist reactionary term of glorifying oppression, subjugation of people of color. Also it will offen atheists, agnostics. We ought to be using “Celebration tree” in its place.

  • emom

    Even Charlie Brown calls it a Christmas Tree, he even celebrates Christmas and says Merry Christmas. Why is the government trying so darn hard to take away traditions. I will always say Merry Christmas, and call the tree a Christmas tree. Why should I change all that, If you are uncomfortable with my HOLIDAYS then Might I suggest turn your ears off. I would no more tell you to change how you celebrate or even call your holidays , so I ask for the same respect of mine..
    I do not dis your holidays and call your holidays by a different name and tell you that I don’t like them. So don’t tell me I have to call my holidays by any other name.
    A Christmas tree is just that. its adorn with garland and ornaments, lights and tinsel, and at the bottom we place CHRISTMAS PRESENTS. Yes I said it again.. DONT LIKE TOO BAD.
    Christmas is a tradition and should never be changed for anyone, Why can’t people just leave well enough alone. Why is the government trying so hard to DESTROY what so many hold dear to them. This politically correct stuff has become such a hot topic. So many things have changed and if we call if by its original names you get blasted for it.,, MAILMAN delivers the mail,,, Yes women are postal people But mine is a ma Thus a MAILMAN. Are we next to call SANTA by another name, In other countries they do call him By other names But its their name for him, Chris Kringle, Papa Noel, Father Christmas, St Nicholas, Santa Claus, Why should anyone ever change how they celebrate a holiday to please others that NEVER celebrate these holidays, I do not celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or any other that are out there. I celebrate only the holidays I was brought up with. That is my American traditions and I will continue them for as long as I choice.
    So to the Governor of Rhode Island with all due respect, You sir are out of line and interfering with an American tradition.. If you do not hold in your heart the essence of the Christmas holiday nor feel you have to celebrate it , well by all means DON”T no one is holding you over a barrel to do just that. But as for the rest that Love the holiday and celebrate it the way it has been for centuries, LEAVE US THE HELL ALONE, I love my CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY, I plan on BELIEVING IN THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS , I will call it by its formal name, CHRISTMAS, and I will be decorating the CHRISTMAS TREE as I have done for the past 45 years.
    So if you don’t like MY CHRISTMAS TREE and my CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY, and you do not believe in SANTA CLAUS. Then wrap yourself up in self pity, tie string around your package and mail yourself back to were you feel at home. This is an American tradition and I do not plan on changing for you.

    • tsal

      emom – Christmas isn’t the American tradition – it’s the Christian tradition. America is not a Christian country – it is a melting pot – or that’s what we are supposed to be. As I said below – you are upset (as am I) when someone uses a word in place of Christmas. How do you think people from all other religions feel? We are just getting a taste of what they have faced for far too long and I’d say we are not dealing with it anywhere as well as they did

      • web

        I don’t understand your comment..exactly which other religions feel slighted? People who celebrate Kwanza celebrate Kwanza…not a holiday..Jewis people have Hanukkah, not a holiday. I think it has more to do with the fact that there are more Christians and Christmas is more popular (for lack of a better term). So they feel neglected? I don’t know. But let’s call it Christmas, let’s call it Hannukah, let’s call it Kwanzaa and whatever else there is, the more the merrier!

  • NikW

    I am happy to hear that Mayor Menino calling this a christmas tree

  • Denise

    Why is everyone surprised? Take the pledge of allegance out of school – they want the US to education everyone including the illegal immigrants – but they don’t want to offend anyone so remove the pledge of allegance vs just letting those that don’t want to Pledge their allegence to a country that is supporting them to sit quietly – they’re flying foreign country flags above the US flag at some schools – Anything our forefathers fought to have in this new country has been stomped on by those coming here and wanting to change to “their way”…. IT’S THE USA!!! We have many many many cultures celebrated here – why is it all of a sudden ok to trash the Good Ol USA – but not good to celebrate it and it’s traditions? If the Governments don’t believe in the holidays and their symbols – then maybe the GOVERNMENTS should not be able to celebrate and benefit from the time off that those HOLIDAYS bring? Why are they wasting tax payer dollers to have “HOLIDAY TREES” in the Cities, Towns and Capitals? Why do they decorate the street poles? Again… Waste of tax payer dollars paying those city employees to decorate! The government doesn’t work enough w/ all their vaca time as it its… why should they break for the holidays they don’t support or believe in??? And for all the ahtiests of the world that don’t have anything they believe in either… you should have to work so those of us that do believe can enjoy our holidays in peace!!! For me… I wish all of you Peace, Love and Joy… for the Holidays you celebrate and believe in! And Thanks..CBS for letting us vent about it :-)

  • Yukon Cornelius

    It’s November 30th. The “Christmas” trees started going up before Thanksgiving. “Christmas” music started four weeks ago and “Christmas” sales and promotions started before Halloween. They stopped being Christmas trees when it stopped being about Christmas.

    If you people really cared about Christmas, then what we call the damn tree is the least of your concerns. Otherwise, it’s just more noise from the perpetually persecuted.

  • Lou Lange

    There is a difference between tolerance and kowtowing, and Gov. Chafee (as much as I have admired him over the years) has stepped into kowtowing territory. No one is shoving Christmas down people’s throats. We have taken accommodation to an extreme by using the term “Holiday Tree” instead of “Christmas Tree”.
    To Gov. Chafee – STOP IT! There is no shame in celebrating the Christmas holiday as long, as I mentioned it before, as it not shoved down EVERYONE’S THROAT.
    Kudos to you, Mr. Keller, and as Jimmy Durante said at the end of that traditional TV Christmas Special “Frosty the Snowman”:

    “You have a Merry Christmas too!”

  • DoverDavid

    It’s a Christmas Tree, if you don’t like it being called that, go back to where you came from and leave the rest of us alone to do as we have been doing for over 100 years.

  • Marilyn R

    Call a Christmas tree a Christmas tree and a menorrah a mennorah. Religious freedom and tolerance do not come from using generic terms for well-known symbols. It comes from everyone being able to celebrate their religious tradition in their way. Generic terms only sterililze. Besides, haven’t we got more important things to discuss than what to call a Christmas tree?

  • Concern

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  • mandoberks

    The so called “christmas tree” is an adapted pagan tradition into christianity, is there a christmas tree mentioned in the bible? This is more of a political stunt than an insult to christianity, In fact if you are a christian and read the bible, you would probably be glad that santa claus and the christmas tree are being disassociated with christ’s birth. trust me this is a recent tradition, christians before during the second century where not celebrating the birth of their savior by putting up a tree.

    • web

      why do you keep bringing up the oldest part of history…traditions are fluid and change…so the christmas tree tradition is a recent tradition, but it is still that a tradition…

      • mandoberks

        “Traditions are Fluid and change,” so you state web, if so then why are people protesting about not adapting that christmas is part of the Holiday season now in America, You know there’s Hanukah, Kwanza, even pagans worship some solar movements during this season. If christmas and its customs where subject to change why not the American tradition. You kinda stated an Oxymoron there. And if you truly believe again that “traditions are fluid and change,” then why are you surprised that in the Land of the Free times are changing and now its called Holiday season. A lit of bit of an Identity crisis is something to address here.

  • Joanne

    Kudos to you John Keller. It is a Christmas Tree, has been and always will be. If we have to call a Christmas Tree a Holiday Tree…then shouldn’t we be calling a menorrah a Holiday Candlestick? Enough with the political correctness already. I will continue to merrily sing “Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree…” And those of you who don’t like it, leave the room.

  • FireGuyFrank

    You think this is bad!? Get this. This year my employer is insisting using the term “Holiday Pole” instead of it’s proper name, Festivus Pole!

    I know, it’s outrageous, isn’t it. They want us to air our “discussion points” rather than grievances. We’ll have simply “feats” rather than “feats of strength”. Hey, why do I have to suffer because folks won’t hit the gym?

    We’ve gone round the bend.

  • Mikey Cyrus

    Who cares what they call it? Xmas is more about marketing than religion now anwyay.

    • Lori_Spencer

      I agree that the marketing of Christmas has become a business unto itself. I am not saying it is right but it just is. To all of the Christians though Christmas always has and always will be about one thing and that is the birth of Christ. The Christmas tree is a symbol of the season for us hence the name of that which we celebrate (Christ) is in the wording of the symbol (Christmas Tree).



    • gramps

      Mother, ‘must’ you ‘YELL’!


    • tsal

      Grammy – we didn’t ask any other religions to change the name because we never tolerated the celebration of any other religion’s holy day to begin with. It’s only been a couple of decades that we had menorahs on town commons and then it took some doing. We still can’t wrap our heads around the fact that other religions would like to have a day from work or school to celebrate their holy days. A Christian is quick to say that there are too many religious school holidays yet will never consider that if other religious days are not observed Christmas should not be a holiday either. We can refer to anything we want as Christmas as long as we are recognizing all religious customs and holidays. All or none. It’s that simple.

  • NewEnglandBob

    ” Believe me, I didn’t want to do another story this year about timid bureaucrats and their politically-correct insistence on avoiding any mention of the word “Christmas.””

    But you did it anyway. Real reporters report real news.

  • Amherst

    Amherst, MA features The Merry Maple which shares the town common with a Menorah

    • Lori_Spencer

      If another religion (so long as it is a legitimate religion) wishes to put something on the common for a holiday of theirs then they should be able to do so… and we shouldn’t try to change the name of said decoration!!! Kudos for Amherst for putting the Menorah on the common!!!

  • Mikey Cyrus

    The marketing of Xmas is ridiculous, but just as ridiculous are the people who are brainwashed by it. All I see are people running around trying to go shopping, stressed by the crowds and traffic and parking lots, spending money they dont have on gifts people probably wont really want anyway. Wouldnt it be much better, for giver and receiver, to spend all that shopping time with family instead?

    • Mikey Cyrus

      Meant to reply to Lori’s reply to my original post, sorry. But while I’m back at it :)

      The commercials are insane now too. The car commercials for were the worst for a while. Buy a car for someone for Xmas? But now there is a jeweler commercial that shows a soldier buying jewelry for his other while he is away, presumably at war. Great, now we’ll have guys fighting for our country while their wives at home watch TV and think “See he could still buy me a gift!”

      Anyways, me and my wife have a great system. We don’t buy anything for each other for any holiday, birthday, etc. Instead we put money into our vacation account and use it for a trip when the pot is big enough. The whole family enjoys it more and we are far less stressed out.

  • tsal

    It makes me incredibly angry when I hear someone deliberately use another term for the word Christmas. To change the name of one of the symbols of one of the holiest and most magical day of the year diminishes that symbol.

    However, Christians have only themselves to blame. For centuries Christians have held their holidays and religion higher than all others. They have not tolerated any other religion just as Americans do not tolerate different cultures – not without a fight and even then it is done grudgingly.

    If calling a Christmas tree a holiday tree upsets you, then stop to think how it upsets others when their holiest days and traditions are not honored. And then remember that Christians in this country have only had to deal with this for a decade – not centuries.

    • FireGuyFrank

      Tsal, when you take a close look and listen, all religions they are the one true religion. Jews believe it. Muslims believe — some to the extent that they will kill those who do not believe. Mormons. B’Hai. Buddhists. You name the religion, or even atheism, and you will find those who adhere believe that there’s is the only way.

      Sure, there are those who will be open to other opinions; maybe feel that religion is like a pizza topping that you can change to suit your feelings at the time. But those who truly believe in their religion’s tenets will say all others are false.

      There ought to be religious holidays for ALL or NONE.

      • tsal

        Hi Frank!!! If I understand you correctly, Frank, that’s exactly what I’m saying – either all or none.

        It should be that each person believes his/her religion is the only one – for him/her. My beliefs are what I feel are absolutely the very best – for me. But I do not believe I have any right to force those beliefs on others – even my own children. Religion is a very personal thing and there is no right or wrong.

        And whatever symbol a person chooses to use to honor that religion needs to be accepted and displayed as proudly as the Christmas tree or manger or any other symbol of the Christian religion. But we have never done that and I feel a good deal of the push back Christians are getting now is the voice of those who have not been heard for decades/centuries and have figured out either they scream louder or they will continue to go unnoticed.

  • Bill T.

    Re: your commentary on Christmas trees: I got the biggest smile I’ve had in a long while when I heard you this morning! Yes, the origin of the Christmas tree is hard to trace, but it has become a symbol to millions of people over the years. So has stringing thousand of lights around the house, putting candles in the windows (which does have a religious basis), the exchanging of presents, etc.etc.etc. Why should the millions of people, Christian or otherwise, who celebrate in this way have to change these traditions because some politicians are afraid of offending someone who probably couldn’t care less? I am all for respect and tolerance of other peoples’ beliefs and customs, so why are mine suddenly inappropriate to the season in which they have always been celebrated? Celebrate as you will (or don’t), but freedom of expression, i.e. the right to call a certain time of year an old traditional name should not be as contentious as some paranoid politicians would have it.

    • tsal

      Bill I would agree if we actually had freedom of expression in this country – we do not and never have. It’s always been Christian ideals first and the rest ……….well, they just fit in wherever.

  • this is just plain sillly now

    So let me guess this straight,….. we should have “tolerance” for all religions, but anything to do with Christian holidays is not tolerable. Hence, the “Spring Bunny”, “Holiday Trees”, no more Santa at the mall, etc. Ok, so we have to tolerate all but Easter and Christmas, because those are offensive holidays? Just checking in with the PC Police to make sure I have it straight. Heaven forbid I offend anyone…. oops, does “Heaven” offend anyone? My goodness. Oops, did that offend anyone? Drat. Oh, sorry, did that offend anyone? I guess I’ll just say nothing rather than chance offending anyone! Nah…. I will celebrate MY holidays based on my religion, and if someone else is offended TOO DARN BAD!

    • tsal

      no you do not have it straight. It’s simple

      Either we tolerate all or we tolerate none.

      Of course you can celebrate your holidays based on your religion or lack of religion but everyone else should be allowed to do the same – and they are not – never have been.

      Again – and it’s simple too – you are upset because someone wants to change the name of a tree………………….how would you feel if you’d spent your life growing up where your religious views were not honored and barely tolerated? Tree name…………..entire religious belief. easy really

      • tsal

        Stanley11 – please see my comment below.

        I take offense to Christian bashing since I am Christian and very proud of it. Because the Christian religion dominates many aspects of our culture does not mean it is wrong. It simply means there have to be doors opened wide for all other religions/cultures and you’ll see from my comments below that it took a great deal of push for it to happen at all.

        Am I American bashing to say we – as Americans – tolerated racism? And that it took very loud voices to end the racism?

      • Stanley11

        Tsal – what has been ignored, and how has it been made to said religions that they could not honor their traditions? You are older than I am, so maybe your experiences when you were younger differ from mine, but from where I stand, I think your Christian “bashing” (harsher term than I intend, but I can’t think of a better word) is really baseless and is really counterproductive to the point you are trying to make. 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

      • Tsal

        BI you can’t deny that its only been a very short time that any other religious celebration or holiday has been recognized in this country. I am a Christian with a very deep faith but I am not blind to the fact that Christians do not have a history of accepting other religions. It took loud voices for that to happen. I honestly do not believe it is PC as much as I believe it is others simply wanting to be equal

      • tsal

        BostonIrish – I hear what you are saying but I’m not sure I’m making what I am saying clear. You know that it has only been a short time since other traditions have been celebrated. I honestly do not think the reasons are for PC – I simply think that others want to be on equal footing. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of noise for most to hear when a minority speaks —– we have a deep history of that as well. I know you don’t want your Christmas taken away – I sure as heck don’t want mine taken away either – but everyone – no matter what religion – feels the same way.

      • BostonIrish

        Tsal, I haven’t ignored anyone. I have been living my life as a free citizen of the U.S.. I have the right to celebrate my holidays, and everyone else has the right to celebrate theirs. I wasn’t denying anyone else’s rights. Leave my Christmas as it is to me, Christmas. I don’t oppose anyone else who has their own beliefs. Don’t opress mine. And I feel no need to go out of my way to object to others’ differences of celebration.

      • Tsal

        I think you know that is not what i mean I have not personally ignored anyone either however As a country BI you know minorities and anyone perceived as different has been ignored for lack of a better word.

      • Tsal

        Boston Irish. As I said very carefully. I hate when someone uses a name other than Christmas tree. It diminishes the meaning. What I do is understand why this has happened. You don’t want to lose your tree and cactus and all that mean so much to you but for generations we have ignored all that matters to others. No one can deny that. One comment above gave a town kudos for having a menorah (sp) on it’s common. I understand what that person meant and am not criticizing the comment but it is exactly what I mean. It should simply be there.

        Try and take my Christmas traditions away and I hate to think what my reaction would be. So in understand why others have pushed back so hard EVERYONE here has done exactly that. Proof is in the comments right here.

      • BostonIrish

        Tsal, I respectfully don’t agree with your “christian” remarks.

        It’s Christmas. It’s a Christmas Tree. They’re Christmas Lights hanging outside of my house. I have a Christmas Cactus that’s about to bloom. I send Christmas Cards to family and friends. I celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day because it’s Christmas. Period. No one takes that away from me and I’m insulted that it’s changed for politically correct purposes.

      • Lori_Spencer

        A lot of people are saying “tolerance for ALL religions” and I would not disagree. I am just going to through a though out there because of something thats been in the news (and on TV Reality)….. What about the polygamist Mormons? Should we tolerate their religous views? I am not saying I agree with them but if we tolerate one then we need to tolerate all… right?

      • tsal

        Lori any religious view that does not break a law of the United States of America – because we are in the United States and as such need to abide by its laws – absolutely has to be tolerated.

      • Enough

        Well, if we tolerate all, WHY does a Christmas Tree have to be renamed a Holiday Tree? We are NOT tolerating ALL if we have to do away with the word Christmas because it might offend someone! I have never asked my Jewish friends to call the Menorah something else, why would I? So why is ANYONE saying that the word Christmas has to be changed? this is just plain silly now is right, I’ve just said the word Christmas several times in this post, my gosh did I offend anyone?

      • tsal

        Enough – of course it is silly and it is annoying to hear someone use Holiday Tree instead of Christmas Tree – I said that from the very start – or didn’t you read – there are a lot of comments here to get through. However, as I also said – it seems to have to go to an extreme in this country before anyone listens and I believe we are seeing the extreme – it certainly has gotten attention – and that it will level off.

        Please tell me a time in history when it hasn’t had to go to the ridiculous to get attention. I don’t get why that is difficult to understand since the history of this country is riddled with the majority having to be literally hit on the head to pay attention.

        I have an uncharacteristic day off and am listening to Christmas music while I wrap Christmas gifts with my grandson for his papa. It doesn’t get better than that. You can call them holiday gifts for all I care because in reality that is not what matters.

      • tsal

        Stanley – I was just talking to my kids about what they remember. My oldest clearly remembers the kids in her class (she is 31) feeling left out at the time of the Christmas concert and she remembers the school finally including Hanukkah songs. My middle who is 27 remembers the continued complaining about calling it a winter concert instead of Christmas and having to sing songs other than Christmas carols. . My youngest doesn’t remember a thing – she is 25 – because by then the Winter concerts were stopped.

        All that had to be done was recognize the fact that in this specific case it should be a winter concert and not Christmas because there are two different religious holidays taking place. All that had to be done was incorporate songs from BOTH. And yet it was fought tooth and nail. And people are asking why it goes to the extreme we see now.

  • santa claus

    Please feel free to call me by any name. It will not change what I stand for. The magic of Christmas lives in your heart.

  • Ron

    Why is it so important what we call a tree when no one seems to be concerned that we have homeless veterans?

    • Stanley11

      Ron, I like to stand up for what I believe in, which is why it bothers me. But I guess that’s only commendable if you live in a tent on city property.

    • petem

      Because Ron, people need to be distracted from the difficult things that are hard to think about or are hard to fix.

  • Dylan

    who cares? as long as its well-decorated and pretty?

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