It was like the calm before the storm. At 5:30 p.m. on a mild, rainy December evening on Smith Hill in Providence, the Rhode Island Children’s Choir set the tone for the evening—peaceful, innocent and mindful of the season. With the tree scheduled to be lit by Governor Lincoln Chafee for 6:15 p.m., the Rhode Island State House had close to four 400 people in attendance; the largest crowd by far in many years. This can be attributed to the debate that has been the talk of the state—Holiday vs. Christmas tree.
In previous articles of The Anchor, we have covered the issue editorially. Two weeks ago, Governor Chafee announced to the press that the annual Holiday Tree in the state house would be lit on Dec. 6 in the Rotunda. The name calling of the tree has proven to cause complications not only in the state of Rhode Island, but across the country for many years. This debate of political correctness was met by local talk radio personality, John DePetro. DePetro took it upon himself—being a celebrator of Christmas—that he and those who share his views, should flash mob the lighting of the holiday tree singing, “O Christmas Tree” to send a message to “Governor Grinch.” Using his daily radio program and social networking, DePetro built up a crowd to join him at the state house Tuesday evening.
Various people in attendance were passing around flyers with the lyrics that would be sung during the flash mob. Many practiced their constitutional right of free speech waving signs in criticism of Governor Chafee’s naming of the tree, “It’s a CHRISTMAS tree.”
The plan for the flash mob was to begin singing immediately when the tree was lit. The clock struck 6 p.m. and Governor Chafee and first lady Stephanie Chafee graced the crowd at a balcony of the Rotunda. With the Rhode Island Children’s choir still singing, Governor Chafee switched the lights on for the tree earlier than announced, in an effort to stop the mob, then waved and exited back into a private room. Much to the Governor’s dismay, the room still erupted in “Oh Christmas Tree.” The flash mob of angered adult voices had begun to clash with the light, and the voices of the children’s choir still performing. The Rhode Island Children’s Choir finished, the children walked off upset and confused as the flash mob sang on. Many in attendance exclaimed the same justifications for participating that evening, “People want to reclaim Christmas,” one woman said, “I think thousands called Governor Chafee’s office; I hope he gets the message by now.”
As the evening developed, so did the extent of the flash mob. As Governor Chafee’s spokeswoman put down a microphone after introducing the Army band that would play next, a man who claimed to be with the DePetro flash mob picked it up and began to sing, “O Night Divine” over the Army band.
After the mob concluded, the Rotunda cleared out almost immediately, and then went over to another tree lighting in the state house.
Down the hall from the Rotunda on the first floor, Representative Doreen Costa had her own Christmas tree lighting in direct protest to Governor Chafee.
All eyes have watched this event unfold—as it has gained national attention from the media—in the search for what is politically correct at the holiday season.