Is a “Holiday Tree” a religious symbol?
It’s a question being put before Durham, NH, and it may bring about the end to the tradition of turning on the tree lights in the town’s Memorial Park.
“We’ve viewed the tree for many years, since I’ve been here, as a holiday tree, a non-denominational tree,” Durham Town Manager Todd Selig told WBZ-TV.
This year a local rabbi asked Selig for permission to include a 10 foot menorah at Memorial Park to celebrate the 8 days of Hanukkah. Selig said no, expressing concerns about vandalism and more.
'The broader concern though was, do we want to open the public square up to all religions?' Selig says.
'This whole thing is not really about us. It’s more about the entire community and all different cultures and faiths,' says Rabbi Berel Slavaticki of the Seacoast Chabad Jewish Center in Durham. He was allowed to display the Menorah at a different park, but only for the first night of Hanukkah. 'Every religion and every faith should be able to publicly practice their faith,' Rabbi Slavaticki adds.
Durham’s Human Rights Commission is now recommending the town end the tree tradition to avoid issues of religion. It’s likely this is the last year the town tree will be lit.
A non-religious carnival celebration heralding the arrival of winter is now being looked into as a possible replacement to the town’s tree tradition.