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Hobbs attends ceremony to light ‘Christmas’ tree

Posted 12/4/23

PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs has found at least one issue in which she disagrees with the last Democrat who was governor of Arizona.

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Hobbs attends ceremony to light ‘Christmas’ tree


PHOENIX — Gov. Katie Hobbs has found at least one issue in which she disagrees with the last Democrat who was governor of Arizona.

She says that big green thing decked out with lights and balls in the lobby of the state Capitol tower is a Christmas tree.

That may not sound like a surprise.

But it is a major departure from when Janet Napolitano was governor. And she proclaimed it the “Holiday Tree.”

So what “holiday” did Napolitano believe the tree symbolizes?

“I think we’re celebrating a number of holidays,” Napolitano said when asked about it at the formal lighting in 2007. But she acknowledged that only one religion — Christianity — has a holiday associated with the tree.

“You can call it whatever you want,” she responded. What it came down to, she said, was a question of inclusion.

Hobbs, for her part, dubbed it a “Christmas tree.” And she said Monday during the annual lighting ceremony she doesn’t see anything exclusionary about it.

“I think we had a very inclusive event here this morning celebrating a lot of the traditions Arizonans celebrate this time of year,” the governor said.

That included Rabbi Jeremy Schneider of Temple Kol Ami in Scottsdale who talked about the history behind Hanukkah, which begins later this week, as well as some of the traditions, and Jackie Johnson, diversity program director for Scottsdale, who explained the symbolism of the candles used for Kwanza.

Still, the governor said, the tree does have religious significance.

“I think this is symbolic of the holiday of Christmas,” she said.

Napolitano, who served as governor from 2003 through 2008, had issues with religious symbolism in government buildings.

In 2001, when she was attorney general, her office put out a memo listing “acceptable seasonal decorations” in common areas. That list including snowflakes, icicles, garlands, poinsettia plans and wrapped presents — but not trees under which gifts could be placed.

And Santa himself was off limit.

Napolitano said at the time the memo was crafted by a staffer, without her input, and appeared to be “overkill.” But she said some restrictions were appropriate for an office where people go to file discrimination complaints.

The Capitol tree got its name back in 2009 when Republican Jan Brewer took over as governor.