1. Headline
  1. Headline
By
updated 11/29/2011 7:57:35 PM ET 2011-11-30T00:57:35

Rhode Island's governor said Tuesday that lawmakers upset with his decision to call the blue spruce erected in the Statehouse a "holiday tree" instead of a "Christmas tree" should focus their energy on feeding the poor.

    1. Christmas around the world
      EPA
    2. Uncool yule: Savannah's holiday gift injures Matt
    3. Ever been busted for re-gifting? Hoda has... twice
    4. TODAY unveils its own holiday window display

According to Gov. Lincoln Chafee, calling the tree a "holiday tree" instead of a "Christmas tree" is in keeping with Rhode Island's founding in 1636 by religious dissident Roger Williams as a haven for tolerance, where government and religion were kept separate.

"I would encourage all those engaged in this discussion — whatever their opinion on the matter — to use their energy and enthusiasm to make a positive difference in the lives of their fellow Rhode Islanders," Chafee said, offering an initiative to feed the needy as a good place to start.

Story: O Christmas tree, you’re worth a cool $2 million

But critics of Chafee's seasonal semantics said the independent governor is taking political correctness too far — and defying the will of the Legislature. In January, the House of Representatives passed a symbolic resolution declaring that the tree customarily erected this time of year be referred to "as a 'Christmas tree' and not as a 'holiday tree' or other non-traditional terms."

  1. More from TODAY.com
    1. 11 things I wish I'd known about baby's second year: Listen up, Will and Kate

      So, first-time parents, you've made it through baby's first year — congratulations! You've got some big milestones under y...

    2. Food personality Adam Richman 'incredibly sorry' for 'crude' Instagram rant
    3. Tamron Hall gets tips for keeping curly, natural hair in shape
    4. Prince George's birthday: The royal tot's 10 cutest moments
    5. 'This is what I was made for!' 5 friends travel the country, spread kindness to strangers
Video: TODAY Toy Drive gets $226K donation (on this page)

The resolution's sponsor, Rep. Doreen Costa, said she plans to erect and decorate a tree at her Statehouse office on Dec. 6, the same day Chafee plans to host a tree-lighting event. Costa said she'll be taking up a collection of canned goods.

"Anybody that wants to go see a holiday tree can do so, but I will be decorating a Christmas tree," Costa, R-North Kingstown, told The Associated Press. "It may only be a little Charlie Brown Christmas tree but at least it will be a Christmas tree."

Chafee isn't the first Rhode Island governor to refer to the annual Statehouse tree as a 'holiday' tree. His predecessor, Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri, used both 'holiday tree' and 'Christmas tree' in his correspondence. Other past governors have made no specific reference to Christmas at all with invitations to "holiday celebrations" featuring a "tree lighting."

The 17-foot Colorado blue spruce at the center of the holiday hullabaloo was donated to the state by Big John Leyden's Christmas Tree Farm in West Greenwich, R.I. Tree farmer John Leyden said he's disappointed with Chafee's yuletide word choice.

Video: Who made Consumer Reports’ naughty, nice list? (on this page)

"It's not a holiday tree or even an 'X-mas' tree," he said. "We're a Christmas tree farm, that's what the name is."

Chafee insists he's just respecting the state's history as a place respectful of all religions.

Story: Military parents come home for the holidays via reading

The colony's hands-off policy toward religion quickly attracted sects that had been persecuted elsewhere. Rhode Island boasts both the nation's first Baptist church and the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: TODAY Toy Drive gets $226K donation

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Major airlines cancel flights to Israel amid missile worries

    Delta Air Lines said Tuesday that it has suspended all flights to Israel until further notice amid concerns over reports a rocket landed near Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

    7/22/2014 4:01:08 PM +00:00 2014-07-22T16:01:08
  2. Dutch collect DNA to match with MH17 victims
  1. Prince George’s birthday: The royal tot’s 10 cutest moments

    He likes stuffed animals, he’s got chubby cheeks and he’s also pretty photogenic.

    7/22/2014 1:11:51 PM +00:00 2014-07-22T13:11:51
  2. New photos capture wonder of George turning 1 

    Kensington Palace released three pictures of Prince George to mark his birthday.

    7/21/2014 9:35:28 PM +00:00 2014-07-21T21:35:28
  3. Prince George's baby style: How to buy his looks for less

    In honor of Prince George’s first birthday on July 22, we rounded up a few of his cutest looks and found budget versions for your little prince. So just why is the littlest royal such a trendsetter?

    7/21/2014 1:47:44 PM +00:00 2014-07-21T13:47:44
  4. Handout / Getty Images