Oy, Christmas tree: We have better things to worry about than what to call the Capitol conifer

News item: The unemployment rate dropped in 36 states in October, rising in only five, including Wisconsin, which lost the most jobs.

News item: State Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Vandenbroek) recently introduced a resolution calling on the state to officially rename the Capitol Holiday Tree the Capitol Christmas Tree.

Slightly older news item: In November, Gov. Scott Walker’s communications director unnecessarily stirred up a hornet’s nest, saying, “The governor believes a Christmas tree should be called a Christmas tree.”

Our sun produces 4 x 1026 watts of energy per second, or the equivalent of 1 trillion one-megaton bombs. That’s a mind-blowingly massive amount of energy.

By comparison, the amount of energy politicians use to argue whether the Capitol tree is a Christmas tree or a holiday tree is incalculably small. I’d guess we’re talking grains-of-sand-vs.-galaxy-cluster proportions. Nevertheless, that’s still rightfully the sun’s energy, and I long for the day when the sun – revered as a deity in many ancient cultures – decides it wants that energy back and sucks the prefrontal lobes from the spongy heads of anyone who spends another second of government time arguing about this.

Of course, most people know that the only reason Christmas is observed on Dec. 25 is that it was meant to compete with (and supplant) pagan winter solstice celebrations, which were solar-centered affairs. And as we all know, trees were important symbols to many pagans. (Incidentally, as an American citizen of northern European stock, I demand that some space be set aside in the Capitol atrium to observe Modranicht, the traditional winter solstice feast of the Angles. We can forgo the customary sacrifice. For now.)

Ironically, some people have argued that the Bible actually explicitly prohibits Christmas trees because they’re “heathen” symbols. Jeremiah 10:2-4 says, “Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

I don’t necessarily subscribe to that interpretation. I don’t think God is against Christmas trees – then again, I’d be shocked if He cared whether we had one in the Capitol.

But a lot of people apparently think He does care – people like State Rep. Jim Steineke. I find that mildly horrifying.

Personally, I’m kind of tired of the culture wars, particularly when there are real issues to discuss. I’m a former atheist and practicing Buddhist who loves Christmas. I listen to Christmas music, have a Christmas tree in my house (strangely, my wife and I both call it a Christmas tree, even though neither of us is Christian), enjoy watching The Grinch and Rudolph, exchange gifts with family members, attend Christmas parties, and eat festively adorned gingerbread holiday cookies with a strongly Christmas theme.

For what it’s worth, I happen to think the Capitol tree should be called the Capitol Holiday Tree, because it’s a more inclusive name – but on my list of concerns, this is approximately No. 102,458,090, just slightly ahead of deciding what to get Scott Walker for Kwanzaa.

Meanwhile, our economy remains vulnerable, and Christmases are being ruined for real, identifiable, tangible reasons. There’s no need to invent any more. At best, resurrecting the annual War on Christmas will create exactly two jobs – research assistant for The O’Reilly Factor and paralegal assigned to the resulting Bill O’Reilly sexual harassment lawsuit.

Call it a Christmas tree, call it a holiday tree, call it a Chanukah tree, call it a Bodhi tree, call it a big sticky plant covered in kitsch. I really don’t care.

No government on any level has time for this nonsense – unless what they really want to do is viciously drive another wedge between Christians and everyone else. But that would hardly be Christian now, would it?

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