Military Christmas Tree Lightings Begin

Around the nation and around the world, US military bases are hosting tree lighting ceremonies as the Christmas celebration approaches.

Not unlike the controversy in Rhode Island, some bases choose to avoid the word “Christmas,” instead using the term “holiday tree” (even as they have Jewish Menorahs, as opposed to a holiday candelabrum, erected nearby).  Some recent events simply say “tree lighting.”

For what its worth, US President Barack Obama recently lit the National Christmas tree, and gave an explicitly religious speech when he did so:

Tonight, once again, we gather here not simply to light some decorations, but to honor a story that lights the world.

More than 2,000 years ago, a child was born to two faithful travelers who could find rest only in a stable, among the cattle and the sheep.  But this was not just any child.  Christ’s birth made the angels rejoice and attracted shepherds and kings from afar.  He was a manifestation of God’s love for us.  And He grew up to become a leader with a servant’s heart who taught us a message as simple as it is powerful:  that we should love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves. 

That teaching has come to encircle the globe.  It has endured for generations.  And today, it lies at the heart of my Christian faith and that of millions of Americans.  No matter who we are, or where we come from, or how we worship, it’s a message that can unite all of us on this holiday season.

There is no military policy on naming holiday celebrations or decorations on military facilities.  Some bases have generic “holiday” events, others not the explicitly religious underpinnings of the celebrations.  Neither is impermissible.

Hanukkah overlaps Christmas this year, running from 20 to 28 December 2011.

Another tradition on military bases is the “holiday card lane“…