by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/12/04 00:01 -08:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2005/12/04/499798.aspx
I remember some time in my pre-teen years having my friend Matthew from Solon proudly talking about the tree that all of his Chanukah presents were being placed under.
"A Christmas tree?" I asked, it being one of those years when December 25th and Chanukah were overlapped such that it could go either way.
"No," he said, "it is a freedom tree. Since we are Jewish we don't have a Christmas tree."
This was something I had never heard of before. It sound like nonsense to a cynical child such as myself.
"This has something to do with the tree of life or something?" I asked, the doubt in my voice obvious.
He shook his head. "No, it has nothing to do with that. It is about the other tree in the garden of eden."
"Um...." I offered, "that is the Tree of Life, Matt."
"Oh, I thought the tree of life was the one we sing about after the Torah goes back in the ark."
I shook my head as I said "no, I think that was poetic language about the Torah being a tree of life or whatever. The original tree of life was the one in the garden of eden. You know, Adam and Eve ate from tree of knowledge of good and evil, and God panicked that we would eat from the tree of life too and thus live forever. And you can't have people who know stuff living forever."
We then started talking about some of those various pieces of Genesis that seemed odd or weird and moved off the tree. I think I assumed the Freedom Tree inspiration had more to do with a bit of assimiliation out of Judaism, but it never did come up again.
But I was thinking about it after reading Geoffrey K. Pullum's recent Language Long post about Christmas Trees and Holiday Trees. I thought about the Freedom Tree again and realized that Matt was not inspired by the same type of nonsense as what Geoffrey was describing but by an entirely different type of nonsense -- the type that keeps efforts like 'Jews for Jesus' going strong.
But I think the answer is the same -- call it a Christmas tree, since that is what it was (as is).
If you don't want to have one, then you don't have to.
I have lived in houses that have had Christmas trees and been seriously involved with people who put them up. And I have never tried to get them to name it more generically to make me more comfortable; it just makes everyone feel silly for pretending that it isn't a Christmas tree when it clearly is....
This post brought to you by "ח" (U+05d7, a.k.a. HEBREW LETTER HET)
# Simon Cooke on Sunday, December 04, 2005 7:51 PM:
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