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What's in a Name: Is it Christmas or Holiday?

Online petition circulating against using the term "holiday tree" at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai.

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."

Life November 26, 2011 at 06:43 PM
Stupid question! The answer Christmas tree.It a shame what educated people are doing to our world! Of course we now the other religion people are trying to change what would be a SIN!!! This time of year is tough for the other religion,because where ever you go you hear CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!! This is america,and this is what it is ,PRETTY SIMPLE!!!!!
K. November 26, 2011 at 08:29 PM
How about "Non-denominational connifer of no-symbolism-implied neutrality"?
Kara Kilgannon November 27, 2011 at 11:00 AM
If there were a Hannukah celebration, I do not believe that Christians would expect the Menorah to be called "The Holiday Candelabra" just so that all may attend, nor do I think that Jews would allow it, and with good reason. If a non-Christian is offended by the lighting of a Christmas tree, they have other options, including 1)don't partake in the ceremony, 2)live in a place where you still have freedom of religion, speech, etc..., but that is not built and based on Christianity.
S. Hawthorne November 27, 2011 at 01:13 PM
Freedom of religion allows us to have a Christmas tree in our homes and other properties belonging to us, not in publicly owned properties. The separation of Church and State does not violate our freedom of religion.
Frank Cofone November 27, 2011 at 07:43 PM
the comment by "BILL" is feeble ....anemic and non - testicular....if u stand up for nothing u fall for anything.....it's CHRISTMAS....HO HO HO....
K. November 27, 2011 at 11:14 PM
To Frank: I thought that it was obvious that I was being sarcastic!
Frank Cofone November 27, 2011 at 11:39 PM
I apologise...as u know there is little to no emotion in texting...Merry Christmas...
Gerard Hall November 28, 2011 at 08:12 AM
S Hawthorne This is not the debate. No one is debating freedom of religion. We are debating changing the name of Christmas Tree to a Holiday Tree , when the reason for the tree to begin with is Christmas., a tradition in this country for years.
S. Hawthorne November 28, 2011 at 12:44 PM
Gerard Hall: Actually I was responding to Kara Kilgannon's comments (see above) wherein she made it clear this issue was about "freedom of religion" and a Christmas tree as a symbol of the dominance of Christianity in this country. Freedom of religion exists in this country, just as freedom from religion does in government places. If Heritage Park is privately owned a "Christmas" tree is appropriate, but if it is as I believe, government owned/funded a lighted tree is appropriate. I hope you can appreciate the difference.
Bert Suarez November 28, 2011 at 01:42 PM
S. Hawthorne if a Menorah is allowed at a government location why is a Nativity not allowed? It's either all religions are represented or none are.
Rachel November 28, 2011 at 04:12 PM
In regards to the comment made by "Life", Are you sure that "the other religion people are trying to change" things? I really don't think so. I think the people who celebrate Christmas are the ones who changed it to Holiday Season. I'm from that "other religion" and I don't think it should be called a Holiday Season, for what are we really celebrating? Christmas and New Year? New Year is based on the Christian (Gregorian) calendar. I already celebrated my New Year. So for all those that want to be politically correct, don't. A Holiday Tree lighting is ridiculous to include other religions. I think it's a slap in the face to all to call it a Holiday tree and say that Jews are welcomed. Lighting a tree has nothing to do with Judaism. It just seems that this whole Holiday thing came about because big named stores wanted to expand their profit margin and include people of other faiths. Please, say Christmas for Christmas things. And please be kind to people of other faiths.
Candace Gonzalez-Donin November 29, 2011 at 12:38 AM
Amen Rachel!!
Candace Gonzalez-Donin November 29, 2011 at 01:21 PM
BTW...to clear something up....the PATCH wrote that I was "rallying Christians" when in fact i was not.....I was trying to right a wrong, and ANYONE who felt the same was welcome to sign our petition. This is NOT a Christian vs THEM situation.
katelyn November 29, 2011 at 10:01 PM
It should be all religions or none. And if we are in fact putting up a CHRISTMAS TREE for the holiday season along with menorah the name I'm fact should be a Christmas tree we haven't changed the name of the menorah..... if the petition is not satisfying then put it to a vote in the community send something out to all mount Sinai households.
S. Hawthorne November 30, 2011 at 02:02 AM
Bert Suarez: Neither a Menorah or a Nativity scene should be allowed on government property; they belong on private property. Our First Amendment separates us in a wonderful way from most other countries, but it is the most difficult Amendment for Americans to fully support. I am often offended by what others express and I am sure I offend others by some of my expressions.
Candace Gonzalez-Donin November 30, 2011 at 01:19 PM
S. Hawthorne: The Heritage Center is private property.....paid by private funds....Additionally....the first ammendment was not created by our founders to keep religion hidden from view....it was in fact created to prevent a state church from being formed, like the Church of England.
Candace Gonzalez-Donin November 30, 2011 at 01:21 PM
S. Hawthorne: The heritage center also has a menorah lighting which is sponsored by Temple Beth El in Mount Sinai.
S. Hawthorne November 30, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Candace Gonzalez-Donin: If you are correct that the Heritage Center is strictly private property it then decides what religious symbols can be displayed, just as the proposed Muslim Center near the World Trade Center, can exit even though some protested its right to exist at that location. However if the property is government funded or owned no religious symbols should be displayed, even if some protest their absence. The First Amendment does not keep religion from view, its practice and symbols can appear in all manner on private property. Just drive around your neighborhood and witness the decorated homes and businesses, all private, but in full public view. Government in this country is prohibited by the First Amendment from making a "...law respecting the establishment of religion", which has been interpreted by the courts to mean permitting religious symbols on public property. "In God We Trust" as it appears on our currency does not refer to any religion per se. Personally I appreciate living in a country that allows the freedom of religion and the freedom from religion. I suspect more than 50% of American citizens do not attend any religious services on a regular basis or identify with any religious order.
S. Hawthorne December 01, 2011 at 04:57 AM
Candace: That just reaffirms the old adage, "two wrongs don't make a right".

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