The 63-foot Sierra White Fir lighted at the U.S. Capitol Grounds on Dec. 6 as the official 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree includes a prominently displayed ornament paying homage to President Barack Obama, but includes no ornament readily visible to a person standing near the tree's base that uses the word “Christmas,” or includes an image of the Nativity, or bears the name or image of Jesus Christ.
On the north side of the tree--at a height of about 4 feet and easily visible to people standing near it---there is an ornament that says: “I ♥ President Obama.”
When asked whether the tree included any ornaments that mention or depict Christmas or the birth of Jesus, the office of the Architect of the Capitol, which is responsible for the tree, told CNSNews.com that it “does not have a policy nor any restrictions concerning the themes for the ornaments” that go on the tree. The office could not say, however, whether or not this year’s Christmas tree does in fact include even a single ornament that directly references or depicts Christmas or Christ.
This year’s tree came from the Stanislaus National Forest in Tuolumne County, Calif., which sits on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, due East of San Francisco. The theme for this year’s ornaments was “California Shines.”
“Ornaments should be designed to reflect our theme ‘California Shines’ by showing how the rich cultural and ecological diversity of this state make it shine,” says the tree’s official website, which was funded by corporate sponsors. ”From the Pacific Ocean to the sparkling deserts, from the high mountain peaks to its forests, rivers and abundant Central Valley, the diversity of nature and the people who live here are what make the great state of California shine.”
While the website said that all Californians were invited to submit ornaments, it put a special emphasis on getting students to participate.
“We invite participation from all Californians,” said the website. “From individuals, artists, crafters, young and old alike, any and all are invited to create and send in an ornament.”
But a flyer distributed by the website said: “Although anyone can participate, a special invitation goes out to school classes, after-school programs, home school groups, scout troops and all other interested youth groups to create the ornaments for the outdoor tree.”
In keeping with this special invitation to students, the official website also produced some environmental “lesson plans” that teachers could use in helping their students create ornaments.
“We ask that all ornaments for the Capitol Christmas Tree be made out of natural or recycled materials,” said the introduction to the lesson plans. “Please share the thoughts in our mini-lesson ‘There is No Away’ with your students when they create an ornament for the Tree.”
“Ask students where they think that trash goes when they throw it away,” said this introduction. “Work with them until they understand that trash eventually ends up in a landfill. Show students the image of a landfill.”
Although the Capitol Christmas Tree, as it stood on the morning of Dec. 19, included no readily visible ornament that mentioned or depicted Christmas or Jesus, it did include one ornament that pointed to the Bible and Psalm 19. This ornament, made from an aluminum pie tin, shows a miner panning for gold with a Bible behind him. There is a gold cross on the cover of the Bible. Around the interior wall of the pie tin, these words are written with what appears to be a blue marker: “More precious than Gold” and “Psalm 19.”
Psalm 19 says in part: “The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold.”
Read more at CNSNews.com.