DURHAM, NH (CBS) – A Durham, New Hampshire celebration scheduled for the beginning of holidays is undergoing some changes this year in an effort to remove religious overtones.
Formerly called the Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, the newly named Frost Fest will include the absence of a formal tree lighting. Santa will be at the event but he will not arrive in a town firetruck as he has in the past.
The wreaths that traditionally adorned lamp posts on Main Street will also not be present this year.
Town Councilor Sally Tobias says the changes came about after some controversy last holiday season. “There was another private citizen that came forward and said that he had always had a problem with the Christmas tree, as he called it,” Tobias said.
After holding a public meeting, the town formed a working committee and made changes to the event.
“There were a couple of people that did express some concerns about how they felt being included,” Tobias said.
Rabbi Berel Slavaticki of the University of New Hampshire and Seacoast Chabad Jewish Center feels the changes are a move in the wrong direction.
“To stop cultures and faiths from practicing publicly would be very un-American. I think that’s the beauty of our country,” Slavaticki said.
Slavaticki said he asked the town to display a Menorah during the eight days of Hanukkah last year but his request was denied.
“The Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that the Menorah and the Christmas tree both represent the holiday winter season,” Slavaticki said.
Tobias, herself, is not the biggest fan of the changes but says the town is open to feedback.
“I will state that trees and Santas and wreaths are not Christian,” Tobias said, “And we would like to hear back from the community. We’d like to hear what they think about it, how they would like to see it evolve a little differently and how we can make it better.”