City explains use of word 'holiday' over 'Christmas'

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The City of Wilmington has used the word "holiday" instead of "Christmas" for its tree lighting and parade for the past several years, and the terminology draws new criticism every season.

Several people have spoken out saying the phrase is too politically correct. City Council member Kevin O'Grady said he has already received several angry emails and phone calls this season.

"People seem quite angry that it's a holiday tree which is an emotion that just doesn't go with this season," O'Grady said.

The City of Wilmington used this statement to explain its reasoning to use the word "holiday" instead of "Christmas":

The use of the word holiday instead of Christmas has been an issue for governmental organizations across the country for the last several years. By using the word holiday, the City of Wilmington is trying to maintain a balancing act between the constitutional rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. 

Wilmington spokesperson Malissa Talbert says the decision to go with "holiday" came on advice from counsel in the city attorney's office. Counsel suggested to make the change, but said to not do anything "official."

Wilmington resident Leslie Cohen said she thinks it's the right move.

"Clearly, legally, separation of church and state--the city shouldn't be separating Christmas," Cohen exclaimed. "It doesn't change what the tree is to any individual person, it doesn't matter, we can call it George, it's good."

Talbert says the city has received complaints on both sides of the issue. A menorah will sit beside the holiday tree this year.

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