Hundreds gathered at Haddonfield's Library Point Nov. 23 to watch the lighting of the tree formerly known as the Holiday Tree. Only a few spectators heard about the event sponsor's request to change the name from a holiday tree lighting to a Christmas tree lighting.
"The name change from holiday tree to Christmas tree was a general consensus of the association members," Ken Tomlinson, the committee chair of the lighting ceremony for the Haddonfield Celebrations Association, said. "The town solicitor researched it and learned that a private group holding a tree lighting is permitted to call the celebration a Christmas tree lighting."
Mayor Tish Colombi said that the Christmas tree lighting was the same as always. The only difference was the Celebrations Association, the donor-supported group that pays for the tree lighting ceremony and several other town events, requested that it be called a Christmas tree lighting.
"Mario Iavicoli, our borough attorney, said that if a private group puts on an event, they, just like the menorah lighting supporters and the crèche supporters, may call the event what it is," Colombi explained.
Some spectators were under the impression the borough sponsors the tree lighting, but for decades the Haddonfield Celebrations Association has coordinated and sponsored the tree lighting and Santa parade.
"Years ago this was called a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony and then political correctness changed things," Tomlinson said. "Since Iavicoli said the association can change it back to the original name of the event, the group decided to change the name, but not the event."
Residents, Santa voice their opinion
One woman, who declined to provide her name, said "it wasn't the word 'Christmas' that surprised me but the addition of a prayer to the annual tree lighting ceremony." Before the tree was lit, Mayor Colombi read a prayer for peace as fellow commissioners Ed Borden and Jeff Kasko stood next to her.
Daniel Grayberg, the new choral director at Haddonfield Memorial High School said the choir added "Angels We Have Heard on High" to the traditional "Carol of the Bells" that it sings at the ceremony each year. Coming from a Christian educational background, Grayberg said, "Either way, it doesn't bother me what the tree is called."
Allison Sparrow, a member of the high school choir, said "I have attended the tree lighting ceremony since fourth grade and always thought it was a Christmas tree lighting ceremony."
John Tesch responded without hesitation, "I'm in favor of the name change to Christmas."
"It is a Christmas tree and should be called that," agreed John Rihl, of Haddonfield. "If people are offended by a Christmas tree, they should not be here tonight."
Haddonfield's Dana Mower of Haddonfield opined, "Holiday, Christmas, it doesn't matter—it's all commercial," while Phillip Otto, also of Haddonfield, said, "Calling the tree a Christmas tree is not fair to other non-Christmas celebrating individuals. (It) should be a tree for all to celebrate."
Even Santa had something to say about changing the name of the tree back to Christmas, "It is a good idea. This is Christmas time, kids want Christmas gifts and Christmas dinner and I put gifts under their Christmas tree."
By the size of the crowd that followed the Santa parade from Library Point to Kings Court, Santa has a lot of bright eyed children looking forward to gifts under their Christmas tree this year. Kings Court was wall-to-wall with families waiting their turn to tell Santa what they want this year as the pick up band played Christmas carols. The sidewalks were crowded as shoppers enjoyed the first evening of candlelight shopping.
Josh Lloret, a senior at Haddonfield Memorial High School, concluded, "It's proper, there is nothing wrong with it since there are no other holidays in December that use a tree."