Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Origins of the Jewish Holiday Tree

Lincoln Chaffee has offended some people by insisting on calling the Statehouse Christmas tree a “Holiday” tree. Now, some of us may be wondering why all the fuss? After all, lots of religions other than Christianity decorate trees with lights and ornaments and put them up in their homes this time of year. Now, thanks to the intrepid reporters at the Colbert Report, we have finally uncovered the true origins of the Hanukkah tree as seen in the picture below.

So, you see, calling our seasonal, coniferous, living room decoration a Christmas tree instead of a Holiday tree is really just WASPy prejudice. All religions are basically the same, right down to the little trees they decorate and place in their living rooms and their desire to pollute their most holy days with crass
while ignoring the true meaning of the holiday.

Next in our series on the origins of the Holiday tree: the Kwanza and Diwali trees. Because inventing history is far more interesting than pretending our culture appeared out of thin air 10 years ago.


Kevin said...

Heh. I liked the Cracked one especially. :-)

It's hard to believe that such a silly thing can be worth fighting over, but it is symptomatic of a systemic problem of cultural and political "correctness" -- defined by those who are most easily offended, apparently.

Douglas said...

"defined by those who are most easily offended, apparently"

That is the more benign interpretation. Some people see it as an effort by some people to strip our public square from all references to our country's religious roots. My cousins' school doesn't even teach why the pilgrims fled to America anymore.

purple_kangaroo said...

People were decorating trees and using them to decorate their homes in celebration of holidays, including the winter solstice, long before the time of Christ.

Douglas said...

While there are certain similarities between the pagan custom of decorating their homes with evergreen boughs around the time of the solstice, the two traditions are actually distinct in origin. The following article has several books for further reading.

purple_kangaroo said...

There are various sources with differing information. I can provide some links later if you'd like--don't have time to find them at the moment.

My parents and paternal grandparents researched the origin of various Christmas traditions very thoroughly and chose not to celebrate Christmas, have a Christmas tree, etc. because they were convinced the traditions were pagan in origin . . . a view shared by the early Puritans in our country's religious roots. :)

While my spouse, children and I do choose to celebrate Christmas now as a concession that it is the time our culture chooses to celebrate Christ's birth even though he was almost certainly not born in December, we personally prefer to decorate primarily with nativity scenes.

purple_kangaroo said...

I realized I came across pretty blunt in my hurry. I certainly don't have a problem with Christmas trees in a holy celebration of Christ's birth, and think they can be a meaningful part of the celebration for many families.

I just have a hard time "getting" the righteous indignation that appears to be prevalent among Christians at the idea of a Christmas tree being a largely secular type of generic holiday decoration, when I've always thought of it as a secular decoration myself. :)

I also don't tend to see the use of the phrase "Happy Holidays" as something to be concerned about either. But maybe that's a topic for another post. :)

purple_kangaroo said...

Finally took the time to follow all the links in your post, and enjoyed the humor in them. :)

Kevin said...

To me, "Holiday Tree" and "Happy Holidays" are precisely pertinent to this post. Despite appearances, I think the "righteous indignation" has practically nothing to do with the tree's symbolism or the ostensibly-multi-cultural-friendly terminology itself. Rather, it has to do with the well-crafted reasons for the changes.

The terms can be innocuous but they increasingly seem to be ever-so-carefully chosen because certain vociferous people are offended by the mere allusion to Christianity. So offended that lawsuits can follow, particularly as government is blended with our culture and society.

IMHO, the solution is to drastically reduce government, but others fight culturally, including being similarly vociferous and obnoxious (though not litigious AFAIK) in their hypersensitive offense, and defense of trifles like "Merry Christmas" and a "Christmas Tree".

The article Doug links characterizes it as "a battle of tradition vs. political correctness". It seems as though Christianity has long been on a trajectory toward political incorrectness. While I think "Happy Holidays" pre-existed this intentional shift, the term "Holiday Tree" (or the comical "Jewish Holiday Tree") seems to have been specifically manufactured for this purpose.

So while I generally share your nonchalant attitude, PK, and the hypersensitivity annoys me all around, I also sympathize regarding the intentional cultural shift and I'm afraid we are stuck with this bizarre conflict for the foreseeable future.

purple_kangaroo said...

I liked the article Doug linked that pointed out the irony of people getting upset about a Christmas tree having that name, while being fine with things like names for the days of the week that reference other religious history/characters. I can see that point, for sure.

Kevin said...

Yep, though the argument is that tradition is fine as long as it isn't popularly deemed "religious". Christianity ostensively takes the brunt because it is (or has been) so closely tied to America's culture and people actually believe it.