Wisconsin governor rejects ‘Christmas tree” in favor of ‘holiday tree’

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2012, file photo, Fourth-graders from Medford Elementary and Stetsonville Elementary schools perform during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Gov. Tony Evers has gone back to calling the state Capitol Christmas tree a holiday tree, reigniting an old fight over what to call the evergreen. Wisconsin politicians began referring to the tree as a holiday tree in 1985. Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker declared the tree a Christmas tree in 2011, drawing the ire of the Madison-based Freedom from Religion Foundation. (Scott Bauer, File/Associated Press)

Despite the fact that the word “holiday” literally comes from “holy day,” the Democratic governor of Wisconsin has made a point of calling the state Capitol’s Christmas tree a “holiday tree,” after his immediate predecessor referred to it as a Christmas tree and the state legislature tried to make “Christmas tree” official.

In 1985 politicians in the state began referring to the evergreen in the Capitol rotunda as a holiday tree to avoid the accusation that they were promoting religion. (Apparently  the concept of a “holy day” is not offensively religious.)

In 2007 the Republican-dominated state Assembly passed a resolution to call the tree a Christmas tree, but it failed in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker declared the tree a Christmas tree when he took office in 2011.

But now Gov. Tony Evers has the reins, and has deemed it necessary to get the C-word back out of the rotunda.

The state Department of Administration places a huge evergreen in the Capitol rotunda every year ahead of Christmas. The tree has been a tradition in the Capitol since 1916. DOA allows other groups to place displays in the rotunda as end-of-the-year holidays approach, including a menorah and a Festivus pole, a nod to the fictional holiday in the “Seinfeld” television series. But the controversy over what to call the tree has never really died.

Evers referred to the tree a holiday tree last week. Driving the point home that Christianity will NOT be under the tree this Christmas, he announced the tree’s theme will be “Celebrate Science” and asked schoolchildren to submit science-related ornaments to adorn its branches.

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff didn’t immediately respond to an email asking why the governor has gone back to calling the tree a holiday tree.

Republican Scott Fitzgerald, the state Senate majority leader and a 2020 congressional candidate, tweeted that Evers’ move was “‘PC’ garbage. It’s a Christmas Tree.”


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