White House Christmas tree -- or is it 'Holiday' tree? -- arrives

A chain email reportedly has popped up that the White House will take the "Christmas" out of "Christmas tree" -- and that the 19-foot balsam fir delivered Friday morning will be referred to as a "holiday" tree.

The email, which first appeared in 2009, is false.  Still, it's another thorn in the side of a president who has long been dogged with questions about his faith and who, on Thursday, ruffled feathers when he failed to mention God in his Thanksgiving radio address.

The email says, in part, "We have a friend at church" who received a "letter from the WH recently. It said that they would not be called Christmas trees this year. They will be called Holiday trees."

PHOTOS: First ladies and their trees

In 2009, White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said the "letter referenced in the email does not exist," and "the trees in the White House will be called Christmas trees, and the tree on the Ellipse will be called the National Christmas tree."

After Obama took office, he kept the subject of religion almost entirely private. But in August 2010, a national poll found that 1 in 5 Americans believed Obama was Muslim. About that time, he weighed in forcefully for a Muslim group's right to build a mosque and community center near the World Trade Center site.

In September 2010, speaking to a group in Albuquerque, he broke his relative silence on the subject, saying he was a "Christian by choice" and that the "precepts of Jesus Christ spoke" to him in terms of the kind of life he wanted to lead.

Obama's failure to mention God on Thursday, however, while he was thanking soup-kitchen volunteers and the U.S. military, caused some outcry, as evidenced by remarks on Twitter.

Nevertheless, the White House Christmas traditions continue apace, with First Lady Michelle Obama inspecting the holiday -- make that, Christmas -- tree at the White House on Friday morning.

Every year since 1961, the first lady has chosen a theme for White House Christmas decorations. That year, Jacqueline Kennedy chose a "Nutcracker Suite" theme.  Last year, the first lady chose "Simple Gifts." The theme this year will be decorations honoring the military group Blue Star Families.

On Wednesday, Michelle Obama will host Gold Star and Blue Star families at the White House for the first public viewing of the White House Christmas display.

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-- Amy Hubbard

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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