The very tall evergreen on the lawn in front of East Greenwich Town Hall came alive Thursday night in the town's annual tree-lighting ceremony – with help from Santa, who arrived via fire truck and flipped the switch.
Was this a Christmas Tree lighting? Not according to the notation on the town's calendar, which referred to a "holiday tree lighting" at 4:30 Thursday, Nov. 29. As of Thursday evening, it was not known who was responsible for the listing.
Contacted after the fact, EG resident and WPRO talk radio personality John DePetro said, "If Santa is there, it is a Christmas tree lighting."
There were no protests.
DePetro made a big issue last year over the decision by Gov. Lincoln Chafee's office to call the tree that adorns the State House rotonda a "holiday tree" instead of a "Christmas tree." The controversy was re-ignited this year after Chafee's office first said there would be no tree lighting, then said there would be. The tree was lit Thursday with little advance notice.
DePetro has lodged this complaint against Chafee inspite of the fact that former Gov. Donald Carcieri (himself a product and longtime resident of East Greenwich) also referred to the "holiday tree" in the State House tree-lighting invitation sent out in 2010.
Bob Plain – yes, another EG resident – has been taking it to John DePetro for beating up on Chafee. Yesterday, he got an exclusive interview with the governor (who lives in Potowomut!) right after State House tree lighting.
“I’ve been surprised there hasn’t been more respect for our history here,” he told Plain. “There hasn’t been that intellectual discussion about that in Rhode Island about these concepts that are now several centuries old.”
Town Council President Michael Isaacs was on hand for Thursday night's tree lighting in East Greenwich, as he has been since he was first elected eight years ago. Isaacs is Jewish, but he sees no reason not to call the tree a Christmas tree.
"My feeling has always been that the strength of our country has been the diversity of our population, of our religions, so I think the Christmas tree should be called a Christmas tree," said Isaacs.
"It is a Christmas tree," he reiterated.
Isaacs spoke at the tree lighting ceremony as a representative of the Town Council, he said. The event, while held on Town property, is put on by the East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street merchants.
DePetro said there must have been a mix up with the name: "I am sure it was an oversight. The people of East Greenwich will light the Christmas tree."