Franklin Pierce would be proud.
The 14th president, a native of Hillsborough, N.H., was the first commander in chief to have a Christmas tree in the White House.
Now, the Rhode Island Statehouse has one, too.
For the past two years, Democratic Gov. Lincoln Chafee has referred to the towering spruce as a holiday tree. That move, meant to avoid hurt feelings and celebrate religious diversity, backfired.
Many residents reacted with anger, so much so that Chafee reversed himself and let the secretary of state light up the official state Christmas tree last week.
The tree in front of the New Hampshire State House has always been a Christmas tree. Even politically correct Massachusetts and the City of Boston light Christmas trees, not holiday trees.
It shouldn’t be a big deal, but the holiday debate is as predictable as Yankee swaps and stockings hung by the fire.
This year’s holiday confluence was muddied a bit by Thanksgivukkah. That’s a made-up word you won’t have to consider for another 70,000 years or so, the next time Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah fall on the same date.
Thanksgivukkah didn’t appear to offend too many. Perhaps the convergence of those two holidays was easier to swallow than trying to balance Christmas, Hanukkah, the winter solstice and Kwanzaa.
Those holidays can all fall within the same week, although they don’t this year.
This all leads to the question — as annoying as “What do you want for Christmas?” — of what holiday greeting is the most acceptable.
A Rasmussen poll last week focused on all questions holiday. Merry Christmas beat Happy Holidays by the same margin fudge would beat fruitcake.
Sixty-six percent of respondents preferred Merry Christmas, just 21 percent opted for Happy Holidays. The remaining 13 percent apparently were still hemming and hawing on Santa’s knee when asked the question.
Schools must tread that perilous balance beam between offending some and allowing others to celebrate. They do a pretty good job of it. So what if the annual musical celebration is called a winter concert?
And that’s mostly the answer to the debate, “So what?”
If an individual or business wants to display a blinking-nosed Rudolph, an inflatable Santa bobbing in the north wind, a mailbox wrapped in candy stripes, so what?
If the young man at the checkout counter wishes you a “Merry Christmas” and you don’t celebrate, so what?
No other holiday has inspired so many memorable songs, so many movies worth watching again and again, and, most importantly, such feelings of general goodwill.
“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart,” Washington Irving wrote more than 200 years ago.
Yes, it also inspires people to over-shop, overspend and overeat. But that’s a personal problem.
Christmas brings out the best in a community, from food drives to toy and coat collections, from trees for families of soldiers serving overseas to this newspaper’s own annual Santa Fund.
Black Friday fights aside, people are nicer in the weeks leading up to Christmas. They’re more apt to give to those who have less, to smile in sympathy in line at the toy store, to think of offering a plate of treats to a lonely neighbor.
The need is present throughout the year, but Christmas sparks generosity and concern for others not seen at other times.
British-born artist and writer Harlan Miller summed it up nicely: “I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”
Indeed. But we can’t, so perhaps we just ought to celebrate heartily and spread good cheer.
Catch the spirit and salute the season with a hearty Merry Christmas.
Franklin Pierce would, indeed, be proud.