Last updateFri, 12 Apr 2019 2pm


To tree or not to tree

The Lake Chapala Society (LCS) is doing a fine job of organizing activities to foster cross-cultural understanding and help foreign immigrants successfully adapt to life in Mexico.

pg17aIn the past month alone, LCS sponsored a class on Dia de Muertos customs, contributed to decorating the Ajijic plaza for the occasion, and recruited fiesta expert Judy King to give a course on Mexico’s Winter Holidays and Traditions.  A hands-on piñata workshop is coming up next week.

These are noble pursuits to unite people from different cultural backgrounds and encourage us to live in harmony. So I’m baffled why LCS has banished the display of a Christmas tree on its campus, apparently because it’s assumed that some folks would take offense at the sight of an overt Christian symbol.

Furthermore, LCS is putting on an arts and crafts show this weekend that’s called a “Holiday Fair” for gift shoppers, followed on December 7 by a turkey dinner party tagged as a “Holiday Bash.“

Yikes! Has the United States’ obsession with political correctness stealthily slipped across the border, arriving here when we weren’t looking?

I get the school of thought that purports it’s more inclusive to wish someone Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. But, let’s bear in mind that the word “holiday” is just short for holy day.


Many Mexican traditions are deeply intertwined with religious practices. Day of the Dead customs grew out of a melding of the country’s pagan and Roman Catholic rituals. The original piñatas of Mexico were shaped into seven-pointed stars representing the Bible’s deadly sins.

So if LCS didn’t blink at setting up a Day of the Dead altar on the grounds, doesn’t it follow that putting up a Christmas tree shouldn’t be an issue?

Granted, the Christmas tree custom didn’t originate in Mexico. However, it has long since been warmly adopted all across the nation.

Historians trace the use of trees, wreaths and garlands as universal symbols of everlasting life as far back as the ancient cultures of Egyptians, Hebrews, Romans, Scandinavians and Chinese, spanning multiple spiritual belief systems. The Christmas tree per se emerged in Europe between the 15th and 16th centuries.

Mexico’s first arbol de navidad was brought from the Old World in 1864 by Maximilian of Hapsburg and the Empress Carlota. The imported custom was quickly embraced in upper crust society, complementing rather than displacing traditional nacimientos (nativity scenes) introduced during the Colonial era by Franciscan friars.

Nowadays the Christmas tree is a ubiquitous embellishment for December festivities, favored in all social strata. Some folks prefer natural pines, some go for artificial ones and others chop down a branch from the countryside to adorn with strings of sparkling lights and miscellaneous baubles.

Often incorporated with nacimiento displays, you’ll see Christmas trees in marketplaces, homes, churches, schools, government buildings and public venues. But you won’t hear those who don’t profess the Christian faith raising a stink.

Would it be too far a reach to consider true political correctness as acceptance and tolerance for any, all or no spiritual persuasions?