Gov. Patrick: It’s a Christmas tree

Posted Dec. 12, 2011, at 10:14 p.m.

BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick capitulated over the controversy surrounding today’s tree lighting ceremony in the State House agreeing it’s not a “holiday tree” but a Christmas tree.

Talking to reporters this afternoon in his office — adorned with poinsettias, ivy and a wreath — Patrick embraced the Dec. 25 holiday.

“It’s a Christmas tree. I’ve always called it a Christmas tree. That’s what it is,” said Patrick. When asked why the invitations referred to a “Holiday Tree,” Patrick replied: “Talk to the people that sent the invitations out.” Patrick did not respond when a Herald reporter pointed out the invitations came from his office.

Yesterday, Patrick was following where Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee led — into the deep, dark woods of political correctness, sending out invitations to today’s “holiday tree” lighting ceremony, even as he issued invites to a Hanukkah menorah lighting next week.

“It’s a Christmas tree,” insisted Michael Graham, WTKK-FM radio talk show host and Herald columnist, who is leading the charge against the governor’s Yule-o-phobic sensitivity on his show after receiving both invitations in his email.

“There’s no other tree for it to be,” Graham said. “It just shows you his commitment to political correctness, even at the point of political self-destruction.”

An email from the governor’s office with invitations to both December events went out earlier this month with no reference to Christmas.

“On Monday, December 12th Governor Patrick will participate in the annual Holiday Tree lighting ceremony at 5:00 p.m. and on Tuesday, December 20th he will participate in the traditional lighting of the menorah at 4:15 p.m.,” wrote Patrick’s assistant director of government affairs in an email blast to an undisclosed list with invitation attachments to both events.

The invitations refer to a holiday tree lighting and the lighting of the Hanukkah menorah, both in Nurses Hall inside the State House.

Patrick’s public schedule for today also uses the term “holiday tree.” A Patrick spokesman was not immediately available for comment last night.

“I want Gov. Patrick to explain publicly why we have to have a holiday tree in order to avoid giving offense, but can have a menorah — not just in the State House, but in the same room,” said Graham, who added he has no problem with both symbols, as long as the evergreen is officially labeled a Christmas tree.

The semantic dust-up comes nearly two weeks after Chafee insisted on referring to the 17-foot spruce in the Rhode Island State House as a “holiday tree,” arguing he was honoring Little Rhody’s history of religious diversity. The pronouncement drew protests from the Catholic Church and resulted in carolers crashing the tree lighting by singing “O Christmas Tree.”

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