Thursday, December 08, 2005
On this day:

Auburn holds "Holiday Tree" lighting ceremony

...and controversy has ensued. Many students and alumni had preferred to call the Christmas tree a "Christmas tree." Nonetheless, the Auburn Student Government Association refused to change the name. Auburn SGA President John Tatum explains (my emphasis):

Dear AU Community,

In 2000, Auburn University’s Student Government Association (SGA) began an official Holiday Tree Lighting tradition. Recently, false information spread that the Auburn University Student Government Association changed the name of this celebration from a Christmas Tree Lighting to a Holiday Tree Lighting and banned a Christmas tree on campus.

No such banning or name change has occurred since this tradition began. Furthermore, it is important to stress that Auburn originally chose to call its celebration a Holiday Tree Lighting not to deny the beliefs of anyone, but, instead, to be inclusive of all of its more than 23,000 students and their traditions and beliefs.

Now, because the facts of Auburn’s celebration have been misrepresented to certain well-intended individuals and organizations, Auburn finds itself in a controversy it did not seek. Fortunately, this controversy has caused Auburn's student leaders to begin to thoughtfully examine the annual celebration in hopes that it can continue in a way that is agreeable to all. This year's lighting has already taken place, so there is time for an examination that is not hasty, but is deliberate and intent on a lasting solution.

I can assure the Auburn family and others who have expressed their concern that this examination has begun. I believe student leadership at Auburn is intent on finding a way to hold a celebration and to call a Christmas tree what it is - a Christmas tree - but, at the same time embrace other faiths and belief systems.

I ask for patience in allowing the SGA to do its work. I believe that, when our work is complete, everyone will be pleased.

Here's another beaut of a quote, from the Auburn Plainsman.

"It was originally called the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony," [Auburn SGA officer Lydia] Knizley said. "A few years ago, the name was changed to the Holiday Tree Lighting to encompass more of the Auburn family."

Oh come on, it's a Christmas tree - a cultural symbol that has been adopted primarily by Christians to celebrate Christmas. No matter what you choose to call it, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Rastafarians, pagans, atheists, and Hindus will never view a lighted evergreen in the same way as those whose traditions are the product of predominantly-Christian cultures. The reason is obvious - non-Christians do not consider Christmas to be a "holy day" to begin with. Thus, using the term "holiday tree" is no more inclusive of them than using the more familiar "Christmas tree."

The unavoidable fact here is this: as a cultural symbol, the Christmas tree can never be inclusive of all the world's traditions and beliefs...but at least it has these. That's more than can be said of the student leaders at Auburn University.