Monday, December 3, 2007
Madison's Holiday/Christmas/Solstice Tree
This weekend my husband and I traveled to Madison to see a matinee at the Madison Rep, a thought provoking play about Vince Lombardi. Much to my husband's surprise, I suggested the trip. It was a surprise because those who know me best, know my profound lack of interest in sports in general, football in particular. But back in the Lombardi days, when we had four television channels and my dad controlled all of them, I watched the Packers every Sunday afternoon, rejoiced and grieved every week along with my family. Lombardi seemed like a person I actually knew. So sure, I wanted to see the play, which for the record, I enjoyed very much.
Before the play we took a stroll up to Wisconsin's beautiful capitol building. It is the centerpiece of Madison's downtown, and just last Friday the governor and his wife attended ceremonies for the lighting of the state's "holiday tree." It stands in the center of the rotunda, resplendent in LED lights and ornaments made by Wisconsin school children. A model railroad encircles the base of the tree, which this year was donated by the Menominee Indian Nation. It's cool. It's tall, packed with glitter and love, and it smells really good.
Continuing up a flight of stairs to the first balcony to see the top of the tree better I was startled to see a substantial sign from the Freedom From Religion folks, stating their position that religion is not reasonable and that it hardens people's hearts. They persuaded lawmakers in the 1980's to change the name from the State Christmas Tree to the State Holiday Tree. Meanwhile, recently the state Assembly considered changing the name back to Christmas Tree. As far as I know, no decision has been reached, though I understand heated words have been exchanged.
Well gosh, I'm not sure it makes a whole lot of difference to most people who wander into the rotunda to be wowed by the beauty of the decorated evergreen. I was raised by folks who didn't attend church very often, but got into the spirit of the time with a tree, cards, food and presents every year. I didn't know anyone who believed anything different until I went away to college, more once I started teaching. But I never ran into anyone who had it out for the Christmas tree. One principal suggested we hold off putting up a tree until the last minute to avoid "fever pitch" in our middle schoolers, but nobody ever suggested we not put one up, or mandated what name we gave it. If lawmakers are afraid of hurting someone's feelings by calling the giant spruce a Christmas tree, I can live with Holiday tree. If people want to admire it as a Solstice tree, lighting up December's dark days, dandy. What I hope people can do is put aside their personal agendas for a few weeks, and do what they can to promote peace and good will.
BTW, I found nice clear instruction for making paper snowflakes, something I have messed up every year, until now: