It may have colorful lights, a train chugging underneath it and hundreds of ornaments, but the "Capitol Holiday Tree" is causing a stir among those who work at the Capitol.
The 35-foot Balsam fir has had the moniker since 1985, but 46 state legislators, mostly Republicans, wrote and signed a letter to Gov. Jim Doyle requesting the tree's name be changed to the "Wisconsin State Christmas Tree."
State Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said he spearheaded the effort with Rep. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, adding the tree's name should truly reflect the season.
"It's not an Easter tree, it's not a Labor Day tree — it is a Christmas tree," Suder said. "This tree at the Capitol is there to celebrate Christmas, and we both felt very strongly that we should give the tree its proper name rather than some non-descript name that is basically meaningless."
The Capitol first housed such a tree in 1916; in 1985, a lawsuit was brought against the state to have the word "Christmas" taken out of the tree's name, which was then changed to the Holiday Tree.
"Any idiot can bring a lawsuit for any ridiculous reason," Suder said. "If someone is going to sue over calling the tree in the Capitol a 'Christmas Tree,' then I say 'bring it on.'"
Suder added the state should not shy away from changing the tree's name due to fear that a "frivolous" lawsuit may arise.
But Doyle spokesperson Melanie Fonder indicated the governor is not likely to respond with a name change for the evergreen.
"The last time I checked, Christmas was still a holiday," Fonder said. "It's too bad our Legislature has nothing more important to focus on than what to call a tree."
However, Suder said the measure is important in keeping with the spirit of the season.
"We're simply asking the governor to restore common sense and give the tree its proper name," Suder said. "This is in the Capitol to celebrate Christ's birthday. And maybe that makes some people uncomfortable, but it is a national holiday — in fact, it's a worldwide holiday."
Though Suder acknowledged there are people in the state who may take issue with adding "Christmas" back to the tree's name, he feels most residents wouldn't mind having the old name restored.
"We shouldn't bow to fringe groups that want to take Christ out of Christmas," Suder said, adding he hoped Doyle's decision comes "expeditiously" and in favor of the legislators' mission.