In our nation’s capital, President Bush lit the national Christmas tree on the ellipse near the White House on Dec. 2. The ceremony was called a “Pageant of Peace” and was highlighted by the singing of holiday songs and Christmas carols.
The next night in Olympia, children of Black Lake volunteer firefighters turned the switch lighting our state’s “Capitol Holiday Kids’ Tree” in the rotunda of our state capitol building. It is a perfectly shaped 30-foot Noble fir from Weyerhaeuser’s Mount St. Helens Tree Farm that was planted in the blast zone. It signifies a season of rebirth and was carefully centered in a building rejuvenated after the Nisqually Earthquake a couple of years ago.
You’d think with all the outpouring of peace and goodwill that both trees represent, what the trees are officially called wouldn’t matter. But it does and understandably so. Having said that, isn’t what the trees represent really the most important thing to focus on?
When the Association of Washington Business (AWB) got involved with the Capitol Holiday Kids’ Tree more than 15 years ago, there was no tree in the rotunda of our state capitol building. Christmas was in danger of passing through Olympia like sand through an hour glass – relatively unnoticed.
Some AWB members approached us and asked if we would take the lead to bring the Christmas or holiday spirit back. They thought a 30-foot tree in the rotunda of the state capitol building during the holiday season would create a festive atmosphere for citizens.
After the first tree was brought in and decorated, it became readily apparent that children were particularly attracted to the tree. The few of us involved at the time decided to name it the Capitol Holiday Kids’ Tree, to create a tree lighting ceremony on the first Friday of December and to use surplus money after decorating expenses were paid to buy food and gifts for needy rural families.
Today, it has become a tradition during this time of year for volunteer firefighters to shop, wrap and deliver the gifts to the families. Seeing Santa coming up a driveway on a fire truck often is what enlivens people who’ve suffered some setbacks in life.
More than 100 people, mostly AWB members, donate money and the tree itself. Over the years, we have raised and donated more than $200,000 for this project, not counting the value of the 30-foot Noble fir trees.
How you see the tree is up to you. To me, it is a Christmas tree. To others, it is a holiday tree, while it may be just a beautifully decorated tree in the rotunda of the state capitol building to some.
From our standpoint, what the tree is called is not the point. The important thing is what it stands for – helping needy children and families, working together for those less fortunate and creating something beautiful that raises the spirits of all who see it during this special time of year. Hopefully, those good things will not be lost in an argument over what to call the tree.
To each, have a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and joyous holiday season. And if something we said has offended someone or a group, it was unintentional and we apologize. If something we’ve said is politically incorrect, bah humbug!
Don C. Brunell is president of the Association of Washington Business.