Mount Sinai residents have to deal with an increasingly divisive debate over the name of a tree lighting ceremony. Is it a holiday tree or a Christmas tree?
Every year the Heritage Trust, a group of volunteers who help to run the park located off of Route 25A in Mount Sinai, hosts a tree lighting celebration in December that they've been calling a "holiday tree."
"In 1996, the Mount Sinai Civic Association began an annual tree lighting to commemorate the Hanukkah and Christmas seasons," Newsday reported in a recent article written by T.C. McCarthy. "It was dubbed the 'Holiday Tree Lighting' so that all community members would feel welcome at the event, according to Lori Baldassare, 52, vice president of the Mount Sinai Heritage Trust."
Lately, the group has been meeting with some local resistance. An online petition going around by email and on Facebook is looking to get the name changed to a Christmas tree and a meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in the Heritage Park community center to discuss the matter.
In an email circulated by local resident Candace Donin to community members and forwarded to Patch, she calls for a rally of support by Christians to encourage the Heritage Trust to officially change the name to a Christmas tree. She wrote that the meeting on Tuesday is an opportunity for people to speak up.
"It is happening all around us in other communities in other states all over the world," she wrote. "Christians have been tolerant and silent as we watch CHRIST be erased from Christmas."
In a message to members on Facebook, the Heritage Trust organization announced the meeting but also comments that the debate is not over the name of the actual tree.
"We would just like to make it clear that we have always called the tree a Christmas tree," Heritage Trust posted to the Facebook page. "The change in question pertains to the actual event name."
Newsday reported that Baldassare is not sure if the online peition even reflects how the community as a whole feels about the matter since many of the signatures aren't even from people in Mount Sinai.
"As many of the 320 signatures as of Friday morning were from outside of New York State, and a couple were from outside of the United States," the newspaper reported. "The board is devising other ways to gauge the community’s opinion, one way being an independent online poll distributed by e-mail so that only Mount Sinai community members can vote."