Christmas Tree Ban

Date updated: November 25, 2019 [Up]
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Were Christmas trees really banned in the White House under Obama?

In 2009, a strange email made the rounds:

We have a friend at church who is a very talented artist. For several years she, among many others, has painted ornaments to be hung on the various White House Christmas trees. The WH sends out an invitation to send an ornament and informs the artists of the theme for the year.

She got her letter from the WH recently. It said that they would not be called Christmas trees this year. They will be called Holiday trees. And, to please not send any ornaments painted with a religious theme.

She was very upset at this development and sent back a reply telling them that she painted the ornaments for Christmas trees and would not be sending any for display that left Christ out of Christmas.

Just thought you should know what the new residents in the WH plan for the future of America. If you missed his statement that “we do not consider ourselves a Christian Nation” this should confirm that he plans to take us away from our religious foundation as quickly as possible.

There are multiple ways to approach this. But the first thing we might want to do with this sort of viral item is see if it has been debunked.

So we search on this phrase -- "It said they would not be called Christmas Trees. They will be called Holiday Trees."

This is a pretty heavily fact-checked claim. And as you can see from even scanning the SERP, the whole idea of a ban is misinformation at best, a hoax at worst. There was no ban under Obama.

This is what we call a zombie rumor -- a rumor that has been debunked but keeps coming back year after year.

If you want to verify this yourself, you can follow the links in any one of the dozen fact-checks, which link to a variety of evidence...

From pictures of the White House Christmas Tree... coverage of the White House Christmas Tree...

Additional Notes

War on Christmas misinformation has a long history. Early in the 20th century, notorious anti-Semite Henry Ford produced pamphlet which accused Jews of shutting down Christmas celebrations.

By 1958, the John Birch Society was warning people of a secret plan by the United Nations to replace religious Christmas Tree ornaments in department stores with UN-approved symbolism.

In 1966, Gerald L. K. Smith wrote -- in the middle of an anti-Jewish screed -- that the reason people were using Xmas instead of Christmas was a secret campaign to blasphemously remove Christ from Christmas. (In reality, of course, the X stands for the Greek letter Chi, an abbreviation among Christians for the word Christ dating back to the 2nd century). The claim that Xmas was a secret plot had apparently originated in a 1957 pamphlet which made a number of other antisemitic claims.

Today, War on Christmas panic takes other forms, with stories during the Obama administration intertwining with disinformation about Islam, and a recent Starbucks Christmas Cup controversy claiming the holiday cups were promoting a secret gay agenda.

It's worth thinking about whether this is felt as disinformation or as experience. If one believes the hoaxes, an innocent "Happy Holidays" from a cashier can be felt as an attack. In fact, just as with other conspiracy theories, all sorts of small meaningless incidents can take on extensive meaning, creating a feeling of fear, resentment, and anger in those that believe the hoax.