Holiday trees -- 12/10/11

Some of you may have caught news stories these past few days about the controversy over the lighting of the Official Rhode Island State Christmas Holiday Tree. If you missed the news items, you may have seen Jon Stewart's Daily Show comments on the situation.

Governor Chafee announced the holiday tree lighting which led to Bishop Tobin and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence reacting with anger. Of course, this is nothing new, the Bishop and the Governor have been feuding all year. Fox News presented the story as if this terminology were something new. Actually (as Stewart points out) the preceding governor (a Republican) used the same "holiday tree" wording in his announcements of the annual tree lighting ceremony and nobody ever even noticed. Chafee (who is more than a bit self-righteous, self-important, and annoyingly politically correct) raised the level when he said he had to call it a holiday tree rather than a Christmas tree in order to include people of diverse backgrounds. The Bishop and the Diocese scheduled a rival Christmas tree lighting ceremony to take place at the same time as the holiday tree lighting ceremony (and just a block away). Despite that, somebody (surely not the Bishop) sent a couple dozen people to the state ceremony who began singing "Oh Christmas Tree" -- drowning out the voices of a children's choir that was attempting to sing Christmas carols as part of the lighting ceremony.

Of course, Christmas had not been a celebrated holiday back in colonial New England (as Steward pointed out on his show). In fact, for the first few decades of Puritan rule in the colony, celebrating Christmas was illegal. The law forbidding Christmas celebration was removed in the late 17th century, but the general Puritan climate in Massachusetts was strong enough to prompt people to keep any observance private and low key. Stewart was wrong, however, in claiming that Congress met on Christmas Day through 1855. As Politifact pointed out, in actuality, during that time frame the Senate met one time and the House met one time.

The Puritans had opposed the celebration of Christmas because they could find no scriptural support for such an observance. They viewed it as being both pagan and papist. Christmas became a widely observed public holiday in New England only after the Civil War. (The Federal government encouraged the celebration as being something that could bring North and South back together after the war and Congress made it an official national holiday.)

So, while in a supermarket yesterday, I spotted a large display of Utz pretzels -- Utz HOLIDAY SHAPED pretzels. Holiday shaped? Heh. What is a holiday shape?

Well, as you can see, the bag itself then explains that -- the pretzels come in "Tree, Star & Bell" shapes.

Ah, yes... nothing quite says "holiday" as a vaguely triangular shaped pretzel that is supposed to remind you of a Christmas tree... uh, I mean a Holiday tree.

I went to the post office this morning and did my best to help solve their fiscal deficit problem. Ship three boxes -- total $53.75. Of course these were fairly large boxes each containing multiple Christmas gifts going to each of those three addresses. I swear, however, that it might be cheaper to buy everything from Amazon and pay them to wrap each gift and send them directly to the recipients. (Actually, it would at least come close because we have Amazon Prime so the shipping would be free.)

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