Gov. Tony Evers' administration will not place a holiday tree in the state Capitol rotunda this year since the building remains closed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, disappointing thousands of people who flock to see the annual decoration but potentially avoiding a fight with Republicans over what to call it.
The state Department of Administration has traditionally placed a massive evergreen in the rotunda every December and asked students to send in ornaments to decorate it.
Evers closed the Capitol in March as the pandemic was taking hold to prevent people from congregating inside it and spreading the virus. He has announced no plans for re-opening the building.
He sent a letter Tuesday to teachers and students saying there would be no tree in the Capitol this year since the building is closed. He asked students to craft ornaments instead for veterans homes, hospitals and nursing homes and send them to the DOA. He said the ornaments should “celebrate hope.”
No tree in the Capitol could mean a hiatus from the annual fight over whether to call it a Christmas tree. Politicians referred to it as a Christmas tree until 1985, when they started calling it a holiday tree to avoid perceptions that they were endorsing religion.
Evers’ predecessor, Republican Scott Walker, referred to it as a Christmas tree but Evers went back to calling it a holiday tree last year. Then-Senate Republican Majority Scott Fitzgerald called the name change “PC garbage” and Assembly Republicans passed a resolution calling it a Christmas tree.