It used to be that retailers would call the famous holiday plant for what it was – a "Christmas tree."
But current trends in Christmas advertising reveal that many stores are replacing references to "Christmas" with what they feel is a less offensive description of their products.
K-Mart, owned by Sears Holding Corporation, is the target of an e-mail alert issued by one Christian legal group for its renaming of "Christmas trees" to "holiday trees" or simply "trees" in its advertising.
According to the Fla.-based Liberty Counsel, when one of its supporters asked K-Mart for an explanation of the company's disregard for Christmas, a Sears Holding Corporation representative said the company replaced the phrase in order not to draw complaints from non-Christians.
"The reason for our use of holiday tree is due to the [sic] Sears Holding is a very diverse company, we do not want to offend any of our associates, but also our valued customers," responded Vincent V. of Sears. "We decided to call them holiday trees because even if Christians are the only religion that uses a Christmas tree, we still do not want complaints from other customers of different religions complaining about our use of Christmas."
Liberty Counsel urged its supporters last week to contact the president and CEO of Sears to protest the use of "holiday trees" as offensive to shoppers who celebrate Christmas. The group has released names of retailers who censor Christmas in its annual "Naughty or Nice" list, which advises Christians where to shop for Christmas.
"It borders on the absurd to remove the word 'Christmas' from a 'Christmas tree,'" commented Liberty Counsel founder Mathew D. Staver.
"Sears and K-Mart have offended their customer base by thinking they can profit from Christmas while pretending it does not exist. The best thing for consumers to do this Christmas season is to act as if Sears and K-Mart do not exist and instead patronize their competitors," he added.
On K-Mart's website, while the word "Holiday" adorns the front page, the phrase "Christmas trees" was displayed over a category that featured a selection fresh pine trees.
Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite maintains in an e-mail to The Christian Post that the company doesn't censor "Merry Christmas" or "Christmas" and issued this statement:
"Christmas will be represented in our stores and in our advertisements this season … much as it has been in the past. Sears Holdings is proud to serve a diverse customer base, which represents a true cross-section of America. As in the past, we endeavor to make our stores festive, while respecting that our customers celebrate many different customs throughout the holidays. In recognition of that diversity, we support the use of greetings or phrases such as 'Merry Christmas' in our stores and on our websites. This has been a long standing practice that we have found acceptable to all our customers over the years and expect will continue in the future."
Meanwhile, the American Family Association has called its over 3 million supporters to contact the corporate leaders of Kohl's and Gap about censoring Christmas from their advertising.
Despite the thousands of individuals who contacted the two corporations last year, the Christian organization still has not found a satisfactory presence of the word "Christmas" on their websites and in their stores.
Last month, however, AFA's founder Don Wildmon reported that the group was successful in convincing Lowe's to issue an apology for referring to Christmas trees as "Family Trees" in its catalog. Around 119,000 e-mail messages were sent to Lowe's on the matter, according to Lowe's spokeswoman Karen Cobb, who said the company has always used "Christmas" in its advertising.
"It was not our intention to try and be politically correct or to try to take the significance of Christ out of Christmas," she said.