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By Catharine Richert October 14, 2009

Chain e-mail claims the Obamas plan to change a holiday tradition

On the Internet, the "war against Christmas" wages on — or at least that's what the e-mails claim.
A chain e-mail says that the Obama White House is renaming Christmas trees "holiday trees."
"We have a friend at church who is a very talented artist. For several years she, among many others, has painted ornaments to be hung on the various White House Christmas trees," the e-mail begins. "She got her letter from the WH recently. It said that they would not be called Christmas trees this year. They will be called Holiday trees. And, to please not send any ornaments painted with a religious theme... Just thought you should know what the new residents in the WH plan for the future of America."
"This isn't a rumor; this is a fact," the e-mail says.
We always get suspicious when we hear statements like that.
It is true that the White House has long commissioned tree ornaments. In 1969, first lady Pat Nixon asked disabled workers in Florida to make velvet and satin balls featuring each state's flower, according to the White House Historical Association. And in 1974, first lady Betty Ford commissioned Appalachian women and senior citizen groups to craft ornaments that emphasized thrift and recycling. And for her first year in the White House, first lady Laura Bush asked artists from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to design replicas of historic homes and houses of worship to hang on the tree.
Nevertheless, the Bush administration came under scrutiny for its own politically correct holiday traditions.
In 2005, then-press secretary Scott McClellan was asked why the media Christmas party had been changed to the media "holiday" party. Here's what he had to say:
McClellan: "I don't know that that's accurate, that the Bush White House eliminated ..."
Reporter: "It is. Yes, it's no longer Christmas. It says, 'holiday.' "
McClellan: "This is a time to welcome people of all faiths, and all those who are celebrating the holiday season. The president just yesterday dedicated the National Christmas Tree to our men and women in uniform."
In the same year, Laura Bush was asked whether she had any misgivings about calling the White House Christmas tree a Christmas tree.
"Well, no, not really," she said. "At this season we know that Americans celebrate the season in a lot of different ways. We'll have a Hanukkah party, Hanukkah reception here at the White House later during the month. But I think we've always called this the White House Christmas tree."
The Bush White House also recognized Kwanzaa, a holiday traditionally celebrated in African-American communities, and held an annual children's "holiday" party.
For the current administration's part, White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield says the tree tradition isn't changing.
"There is no truth to this, and the letter referenced in the e-mail does not exist," she said. "No letter has gone out yet from the White House pertaining to Christmas tree ornaments."
She added, "The trees in the White House will be called Christmas trees, and the tree on the Ellipse will be called the National Christmas Tree. There will be no name changes."
So all this chain e-mail deserves is a lump of coal and a Pants on Fire!

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources, White House Christmas Ornaments , accessed Oct. 14, 2009, Religion Banned on White House Christmas Tree Ornaments? , by David Emery, accessed Oct. 14, 2009

White House Archives, Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the White House Holiday Press Preview , accessed Oct. 14, 2009

White House Archives, Holidays 2006 program , accessed Oct. 14, 2009

White House Historical Association, White House Christmas Tree History , accessed Oct. 14, 2009

White House Archives, Daily Press Briefing, Dec. 2, 2005, accessed Oct. 14, 2009

World Net Daily, Bush media party now 'Holiday Reception,' Les Kinsolving, Dec. 2, 2005

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Chain e-mail claims the Obamas plan to change a holiday tradition

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