AUSTIN – For as long as capitol historians can remember, going back more than 70 years, the Texas Senate Chamber has not had an annual Christmas tree to welcome members and visitors in the true spirit of the holiday. Why not?
“I was asked that question two years ago as a state senator,” said Patrick, “and no one seemed to have the answer. To the casual observer, it simply looked as though the Texas Senate had chosen not to celebrate Christmas with the centuries old tradition of an evergreen tree topped with an angel. It is not the image I want to portray as Lt. Governor and I believe the senators agree.”
This year’s first annual Senate Christmas tree stands 24 feet tall and was provided by the Elves Christmas Tree Farm in Denison (Grayson County). The Virginia Pine will remain in the center aisle of the historic Senate Chamber through the holiday period and all senators have been invited to provide ornaments from their district and participate in the tree’s decoration.
In years past, the Senate Chamber has been filled with Texas grown poinsettias placed on each Senator’s desk. A smaller decorated tree in the East Wing of the Texas Capitol adorns the Lieutenant Governor’s second floor Reception Room.
A Senate media archives search found a single photo of a Christmas tree in the chamber in 1999 during the 76th Legislature. However, that event has never been repeated.
In 2013, then Senator Patrick also co-authored legislation known as the “Merry Christmas bill,” authored by Senator Robert Nichols, to stop what some considered to be a war on Christmas. School districts are now allowed to participate in winter celebrations with traditional greetings such as Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and happy holidays. School districts may also display nativity scenes and Christmas trees.
This annual Christmas Tree tradition is paid for with private funds and not at tax payers expense.
Raw video of the annual Christmas Tree set up is available for download at http://bit.ly/1O02El4.