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Tree Lighting

Original post made by St. Nick, Professorville, on Dec 13, 2010

Why is the City of Palo Alto one of the few cities that does not have a tree lighting?

Comments (27)

Posted by who
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Is this the city's responsibility or something that local merchants organize?

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2010 at 4:44 pm

it's just not the kind of thing they do around here. You sound like someone from somewhere else - like me - who has fond memories of such things.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Los Altos has a wonderful tree lighting. It would be nice to have one in Palo Alto. But knowing Palo Altans, someone would complain about it not being green enough. It may cost the city something, but I would rather the city pay for something that anyone can enjoy rather than some of the money spent on things like the Childrens Theatre. (Not trying to start a PACT discussion, just using it as an example of where the money may be able to come from).

Posted by who
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 13, 2010 at 7:54 pm

If the government pays for this, you're likely to get complaints from non-Christians. Let churches handle the religion on their private property. The city is doing enough by allowing Christmas decorations on downtown public streets.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 13, 2010 at 7:59 pm


You are the only one on this thread who has mentioned Christmas. Can you tell me what a tree with lights on has to do with the story of baby Jesus? From what I know, lights on an evergreen tree started as a pagan midwinter celebration. No mention of Christianity there.

Posted by Sonia
a resident of University South
on Dec 13, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Exactly. A tree is just a symbol of festive winter spirit. I am Jewish, but I am not a single bit offended by a Christmas tree. It is unfortunate that so many people have absolutely wrong perceptions of what would be offensive to people of other religions. We are not that fragile or overly sensitive.

Posted by Jenny
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 14, 2010 at 9:33 am

Of course we has tree lighting, it's called Christmas Tree Lane (Fulton Street). I walked down the street on Saturday evening, it was glorious, I recommend a visit for all those nostalgic about Christmas.

Posted by Chris Cringle
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2010 at 11:15 am

A tree lighting would be a wonderful community event! It warms the heart and brings folks together for a postivie, wholesome, family experience. Remeber when PA did snow on the downtown streets? How beautiful, yes costly, so let's get a tree and light it up (with LEDs)!
How 'bout it Palo Alto?

Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 14, 2010 at 11:51 am

Palo Alto doesn't do flags on the 4th of July either- or any other civic patriotic occasion. Other surrounding cities do, and it is beautiful. On the 50th anniversary of the end of WWII in August 1995 , some in the Palo Alto City Hall administration didn't want to fly American flags for fear that it would offend our Japanese residents!!! Instead it did a big picture display of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in the City Hall lobby. Talk about civic uproar.. Only in Palo Alto - the twin city of Berkeley.

Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm

I do like and agree with Bob's comment about displaying the American Flag. The city administration is so worried about offending someone that they do not fly the symbol of America and Patriotism. Sure, there are a few at some city facilities, but come on. They did a great ceremony the year after 911, but never since. What is wrong with being a patriotic and displaying a symbol whether it be the American Flag or a Christmas Tree?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2010 at 1:01 pm

A tree lighting's not the same as a Christmas tree. I recall at various points the trees on University being lit.

And, Bob, Palo Alto's not the twin of Berkeley. Berkeley's gotten pretty yuppified, but Palo Alto's still a lot more mainstream than Berkeley.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 14, 2010 at 3:47 pm

9/11 was an occasion like the Day of Infamy. I think both merit respect and flying the U.S. flag and some remembrance or note in public schools and public facilities...

I think I recall seeing PA fire engines displaying or flying American flags after 9/11. Maybe someone can confirm this? I know I saw that somewhere around here on engines and I thank those who did that. It showed respect for NYC firefighters, public safety personnel, citizens who died or were affected as well as for this entire country. Otherwise, in my memory, which others are free to contest, it SEEMED to me like the CITY of PA was "too far away" from NYC to make overt efforts to demonstrate patriotism after this horrible terrorist attack.

I have had the sense that the city of PA, in general, does not reflect patriotism or make much of a deal displaying the flag very much.

I think pride in this country could be displayed a bit more around here on appropriate occasions (as someone who grew up in another state with wonderful 4th of Julys...)There is a bit of a malaise here. I hope immigrants get a sense of belonging in this country and the history of this country.

Posted by Jenny
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 14, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Reading these blogs makes me wonder why you all live in Palo Alto, why don't you move to the kind of communities you'd obviously prefer to live in. Why do you want the city to pay for your entertainment?

Christmas tree lane (Fulton Street) is wonderful all lit up - go take a look tonight. We don't think it's necessary to copy other cities and their ways of doing things. Palo Alto does things differently and even uniquely and for that I'm really pleased.

Posted by Ada
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 14, 2010 at 6:06 pm

People live in Palo Alto for many reasons, great schools being major one. And more people would have moved here if we had more of a community feel and respect to our heritage and traditions, that towns like Los Gatos still have. And Fulton street is not the same as having a tree in downtown where families could come and enjoy the lights. We could have it one of the smaller downtown park, e.g. in Elinor "Cogswell" Plaza and have a school band play holiday tunes, and a street vendor sell hot cider and gingerbread cookies, who would object to that?? And it is not that expensive and can be funded by donations...

Posted by Chas
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Ada, if you have a tree lighting ceremony for Christians living locally you will have to have a menorah ceremony for the many Jews in our community and possibly a ceremony for the many Muslims also living in Palo Alto. Also something at the Shinto and Buddist Temples. We are an all inclusive community of many religions and faiths, and you cannot single out ceremony for the Christians only.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 14, 2010 at 7:22 pm


As I stated above. An evergreen tree has nothing whatsoever to do with the story of baby Jesus. A lit tree at this time of the year has nothing to do with what Christians celebrate.

Anyway, why can't we have a Menorrah, or other decorations also? It would add to the festive spirit. After all, we are really celebrating the occasion for many faiths at this time of the year and call this season the holiday season to take all the different celebrations into account.

Perhaps, we could have some fake snowmen around too, no idea what religion worships them but some people seem to like them in their front yards.:)

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 14, 2010 at 7:40 pm


I'm with Resident here--Menorah's are directly involved in the religious aspects of Hanukkah. Christmas trees are a holdover from European pagan traditions. I'd say a Menorah's roughly equivalent to a Nativity scene.

It is very common around the world to light things up during the darkest parts of the year--Christmas, Hannukah, Diwali, Chinese New Year--all emphasize lighting things.

We have an eruv, so I think it's reasonable to have a lit-up tree. How about a living tree? Just hang some solar-powered stars with various numbers of points.

Posted by student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 14, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I think Palo Alto should be ashamed not to wave the American flag! I also agree that we should have a tree lighting! I am glad that people, like BOB, realize the tragedies of Palo Alto.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Dec 14, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Paly Student -

I agree with you. I enjoy both Christmas tree lights, and blue and white Hanukkah lights to light up the dark winter nights.
I also enjoy patriotic celebrations, and we always put our flag out on these days.

Posted by our secular city
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 14, 2010 at 10:38 pm

A Christmas tree is okay but a Chanukah menorah is too religious? Chanukah is a minor holiday without any significant religious overtones, whereas a Christmas tree is indeed a symbol of a religious holiday that only one religion celebrates.

Thank you, Palo Alto, for not using public funds to erect a religious symbol in a public place. One of the reasons I live here is that the city respects separation of church and state.

Posted by Eric
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 15, 2010 at 6:03 am

Our secular City is absolutely right on. The U.S. prides itself in having a form of government that separates church and state, this should be upheld in Palo Alto.

A lighted tree is a symbol of the Christian faith, our tax dollars should never be used to pay for such symbols. If a church wants to place one on church property that's another matter, but definitely not in any City park or other property.

A Christmas tree is a symbol of the Christian faith.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2010 at 7:14 am

I will say again, an evergreen tree with lights has absolutely nothing to do with the story of baby Jesus.

A tree is not a symbol of the Christian faith. A cross is the symbol that is associated with Christianity and fish and rainbows are also used to symbolise God's love.

Snowmen, trees, Santa Claus, and nutcrackers, are not symbols of Christianity.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 15, 2010 at 3:30 pm


We're a Christian family. But I've got to tell you that you're sticking your head in the sand with your argument, "an evergreen tree with lights is not a Christian symbol".

It is a worldwide accepted perception that it is called a "Christmas Tree" for a good reason.

Try to reposition it anyway you want --- it's still a Christmas Tree to 99% of the world.

Move on.

Posted by Eric
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 15, 2010 at 3:59 pm

This week is the festival of Assurer for Shiite Muslims. The City is not displaying a Minorah for our Jewish friends, why should be have a Christmas tree for Christians? There is a reason why our country separates church and State because we are a land of immigrants with many different religions. Our tax dollars should be wisely spent and not used for a Christian symbol.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 15, 2010 at 5:06 pm


It is true to say that most people call the decorated evergreen tree a Christmas Tree, we do in our home. However, the fact that the story of the birth of Jesus has nothing to do with an evergreen tree makes us wonder why we have this tradition. The celebration of the winter solstice and the fact that evergreen trees do not shed their leaves may be the reason why the ancient pagan practice was taken to become a picture of life in the middle of winter which eventually became the traditional time for Christians to celebrate the birth of Christ. The following link explains it very well. Web Link

I have no objection to decorated trees, elves, snowmen, candycanes, nutcrackers, reindeers or anything else at this time of year, Menorrahs and Buddhas, included. But the fact is that they are only traditions. I agree that putting a manger scene on City property would not be the right thing to do, but a tree is not a Christian symbol.

There are many decorated trees in the White House. I believe the President refers to them as Holiday Trees. Are you saying that the White House is not government property and should not have a tree?

If the President can decorate a tree in the White House. I see no reason why we can't decorate a tree in Palo Alto.

Posted by Eric
a resident of Green Acres
on Dec 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Do you realize that if you put up a Christmas tree Downtown somewhere with lights and decorations, they would all be stolen!!! A tree on University Avenue or even the plaza in front of City Hall would have to be guarded 24/7, and as a taxpayer I'm not about to pay for Police protection for a Christmas tree!!!

Posted by Lee
a resident of Monroe Park
on Dec 21, 2010 at 11:09 am

This pc discussion reminds me of the corporate joke - an email invitation to celebrate Christmas party that transforms into Holiday Party invitation and ends up with party being cancelled alltogether. This is what we area experiencing here - in order to accommodate everyone's religious sensitivities (exhaggerated) we are having no party at all. Are you happier now?

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