Dee DeQuattro


Rhode Island will host it's annual tree lighting at the State House on Thursday and this year it will be called a Christmas Tree but Governor Lincoln Chafee will not host the lighting.

Instead Secretary of State Ralph Mollis will light the 18-foot blue spruce at 6:00 p.m.

The festivities will begin around 5:00 p.m. and will include a special visit from Santa Claus.

For the past two years the governor's decision to call the State House tree a "holiday tree" has grabbed national headlines. In 2012, in order to avoid controversy the Governor opted to flip the switch to the lights in a surprise ceremony announced just a half an hour earlier.

"Despite the myriad of pressing issues facing Rhode Island and the nation, this presumably happy event became a focal point for too much anger. Strangely lost in the brouhaha was any intellectual discussion of the liberties pioneered here in Rhode Island 350 years ago in our Charter," said Chafee in a statement. "Because I do not think how we address the State House tree affects our 'lively experiment,' this year's invitation calls the tree a Christmas tree."

State Representative Doreen Costa has led the charge to call the State House tree a Christmas tree. For the past two years she has hosted her own Christmas tree lighting at the State House in protest.

"I think it is a win, win situation because they are actually calling it a Christmas tree," said Costa. Costa said as long as the tree is called a Christmas Tree this year she will cancel her own Christmas Tree lighting which was set for Dec. 11.

In 2011, Costa passed a resolution in the RI House of Representatives declaring that the State House tree should be called a Christmas Tree.

(C) WLNE-TV 2013