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The Old Traditions

There was talk a number of years ago of doing away with the holiday tree at the center of the Green — something about a too-direct relation with one religion or another of Middle Eastern origin. Fortunately for us, wiser counsel was brought to bear:

Green Xmas1.jpg

The College’s haunting beauty endures.

Addendum: Gosh, a guy puts up a photo of a Christmas tree, and it turns out that there was a long-ago controversy even about Dartmouth’s tree on the Green. An alum writes in:

As I recall, the question of this originally-pagan symbol’s suitability in this sensitive age was studied for perhaps months by a blue-ribbon committee or task force, some few years ago. Its ultimate solution was to keep the tree, but not at the very center of the campus; it was moved a short distance to the north of the hub of the Green’s radiating walks, and so it stands now. The precise dates and details of this accommodation are no doubt well documented.

He’s right! There was a committee (what else?) convened in 1997 to discuss the appropriateness of a tree placed in the center of the Green at Xmas time. The “Committee on the Tree,” as it was formally known, was convened by Scott Brown ‘78, then-Dean of the Tucker Foundation, and it was “chaired by Daniel Siegel (only at Dartmouth could a rabbi chair such a committee!) and included three students, three chaplains and a representative from the Office of Public Programs.” The committee’s final recommendation:

We believe that the full name of the tree is the “Christmas Tree.” We do believe that the Christmas Tree should remain on the green, representing as it does a holiday celebration observed by the very large majority of both the Dartmouth and local communities. At the same time, we think that its placement at the very center of the green, the symbolic center of our lives in Hanover, implies that everyone celebrates Christmas. Our suggestion is that, in coming years, the Christmas Tree be moved some distance off the center, symbolically announcing that this is a holiday for the majority of the community, but not its totality.

And that’s where the tree is to this very day: slightly off the center of the Green, sitting about 15-20 feet towards Baker Library. I checked just a few minutes ago.

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