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It's a holiday tree, not a Christmas tree

Nov 28, 2010

By: Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

November 28, 2007 - 2:26PM

Governor Napolitano: It’s a 'holiday tree'

What do you call the large green thing in the lobby of the state Capitol tower decorated with lights, balls and doves?

Well, if you’re the governor, you don’t call it a Christmas tree. Instead, Janet Napolitano has dubbed it the “holiday tree.”

The governor formally lit the decoration this week in a ceremony. She also used the opportunity to promote “Hope for the Holidays,” a special program to provide gifts to the children of parents who are incarcerated.

So what “holiday” does Napolitano believe the tree symbolizes?

“I think we’re celebrating a number of holidays,” the governor responded Wednesday when queried about the display.

Pressed further, Napolitano acknowledged that only one religion — Christianity — erects a tree as a holiday symbol.

“You can call it whatever you want,” she said.

The “holiday tree” name met with bemusement from Secretary of State Jan Brewer, who, like Napolitano, has her office in the Capitol tower.

“It’s a Christmas tree,” she said while passing by the display on her way into the building. “Who are you trying to kid?”

And Brewer said if she eventually becomes governor — and has the annual ceremonial duty of lighting the tree — that’s exactly what she will call it.

This isn’t the first time Napolitano has gotten into an issue of what might be called political correctness about Christmas.

In 2001, the Attorney General’s Office, which she headed, put out a memo listing “acceptable seasonal decorations” in common areas. These included snowflakes, icicles, garland, poinsettia plants and wrapped presents.

But the policy prohibited a tree to put the presents under. In fact, Santa himself was declared persona non grata.

Napolitano said at the time the memo was crafted by a staffer, without her input, and appeared to be “overkill.”

But she defended the list and said there was a legitimate reason for the decision: Anyone who wants to file a discrimination complaint has to come to that office. She said it sends the wrong message for these people to have to face a state office where a religion’s symbols are displayed.

And Napolitano, already running for governor at the time, promised that the lobby of the Capitol tower would not be stripped of any seasonal decorations should she be elected.

“It’s going to be a Christmas cactus,” she quipped, something “appropriate” for the Southwest.


Montini's Columns & Blog 'Ancora imparo'

Napolitano's "holiday" tree

Gov. Janet Napolitano, like so many politicians before her, has stepped back into the mine field of Christmas-time political correctness and...BOOM!

Napolitano, who certainly got better grades than I did in school, is foolishly calling the decorated Christmas tree in the lobby of the state Capitol a "holiday tree,” as if she WANTS to get blasted for being too politically correct.

It's a Christmas tree. Call it that. No one will take offense.

Really, would she call a menorh a "holiday candelabrum?"

"I think we’re celebrating a number of holidays,” the governor supposedly told reporter Howard Fisher of Capitol Media Services on Wednesday when asked about the tree. Adding, “You can call it whatever you want."

No. Just call it what it is.

A Christmas tree.


Chandler's pride, joy

Holiday tree made of tumbleweeds honors city's Southwestern heritage

Dianna M. Náñez

The Arizona Republic

Nov. 29, 2007 12:00 AM

Saturday marks Chandler's 51st annual Tumbleweed Tree Lighting Ceremony, a Valley holiday custom done in Southwest style.

While thousands attend the tree celebration and an attendant parade, fewer onlookers might be familiar with how the 35-foot tumbleweed tree came to be.

Tumbleweed time in Chandler begins annually in October. A city parks and maintenance crew is charged with gathering enough tumbleweeds to build the tree.

This year's tumbleweed-hunting party was led by staff with more than 15 years of combined experience scouring the few remaining open areas in Chandler for 1,200 perfect prickly specimens. That's the average number it takes to fulfill a tradition that began in 1957 when Chandler resident Earl Barnum called open season on the weed.

Barnum eyed a Christmas tree fashioned from pinecones and chicken wire in the Midwest and envisioned using tumbleweeds to build Chand- ler's festive tribute. As part of the tradition, the city tries to harvest only tumbleweeds native to Chandler.

In Barnum's day, the tumbleweed was an easy hunt.

Pursuing tumbleweeds became a daunting task as another invasive species, the developer, encroached upon the desert plant's habitat.

Tumbleweed trackers are now forced to navigate abandoned fields where snakes and field rats roam.

William Williams, 50, and Frank Martinez, 48, are familiar with Barnum's tradition and the tumbleweed hunt.

Williams has led the tumbleweed chase for much of his 16 years with the city.

Officially, he is retired from hunting duties. But Williams still guides first-time hunters to ensure they are bagging tumbleweeds that would pass Barnum's standards.

Over the years, Williams has faced a rattlesnake, suffered a few scrapes with unruly and particularly spiky tumbleweeds and seen the desert scrub slowly disappear.

"We're running out of tumbleweeds around Chandler," he said. "It gets harder every year."

This year's fall hunt took Williams and Martinez's crew to Chandler's remote Los Arboles Park near Germann and McQueen roads.

But Williams would tell you the spot is perfect for tumbleweeds.

"We got a pretty good field here," said Williams, as he sized up Los Arboles' tumbleweed harvest. "They're not all ready yet - you got to get them when you can't see all they way through them too much."

It takes dedication and a little muscle to make a top-notch Russian thistle hunter, Martinez said.

"I told the new guys. 'We're going out to get tumbleweeds,' and they looked at me like I'm crazy," he said. "When they get out here, they see it's hard work cutting and loading them."

One wonders whether Barnum would have guessed the effort it would take to sustain his vision in the face of the weed's slow extinction.

Chandler parks and grounds supervisor Kris Kircher has worked for the city for 21 years and recalls Barnum advising novice tree architects.

"I remember my first few years building it. Earl would come down. He'd sit in his lawn chair and show us when we weren't smashing it into the tree right or if we had the wrong kind of tumbleweeds.

"There is a science to the tree building. You just can't pick any tumbleweed. It has to be just right, can't be too green, can't be too big. He took a lot of pride in the tree."