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PostPosted: Wed Dec 07, 2005 11:33 am 
Wednesday, December 7, 2005

More offices light up trees for Christmas -- but hold the angels


It's not exactly the Island of Misfit Toys, but in a back room at the Julius Rosso Nursery & Garden Center in Georgetown sit numerous victims of the cultural war over Christmas trees.

"Here are some angels with trumpets," said Bobbi Rosso, sifting through Christmas ornaments stowed in boxes.

"And here's one with a flute," she said, pulling out another angel.

The Rossos put up many of the Christmas trees in downtown Seattle's office buildings. Around this time of year, she and her assistants put up five Christmas trees a day. None have any angels on them, she said. No jolly Santa Clauses, either. These days, many of Rosso's customers consider such ornaments to be too religious.

"They're worried about offending people," she said.

Not all building managers have declared their lobbies angel-free zones out of political correctness, she noted. Many of her customers have simply left it to her to decorate the trees. But Rosso said she's heard enough people who want religion kept out of office lobbies to know that putting up the most cherubic of trumpet-playing angels could cause her customers problems.

So in the boxes sit gold-colored cherubs, angels made of glass -- none to be seen this holiday season.

Even the term "Christmas tree" is causing controversy in some places around the country.

In places as varied as Chicago, Reno, Nev., and Prairie Village, Kan., they've been renamed "holiday trees." In Boston, the Parks and Recreation Department set off a furor when it advertised the lighting of a Holiday Tree. The Nova Scotia logger who donated the spruce told newspapers he'd rather feed the tree to a wood chipper than call it that.

Also forgotten in the back room at Rosso's nursery: boxes of snowman ornaments. Those ornaments, though, are victims of fashion. The tastes of Rosso's customers have turned from kitsch to the glamorous luxurious gold balls and crystal icicle ornaments.

The angel issue confounds Rosso.

"Look at these -- how can anyone object to these?" she said, pulling a plump cherubic face from yet another box.

"I'm not for all this controversy about Christmas. I'm Italian and Irish Roman Catholic. I believe in the birth of Christ," she said. "To me, it's tantamount to taking the birthday out of cake. Or to take the baseball out of ... er ... bat."

Last Wednesday, Rosso and four of her helpers including Helen Schafer went to the Plaza 600 office building at Sixth Avenue and Stewart Street.

The Vance Corp., which manages the building, hadn't specifically asked that there be no angels.

There were golden grapes, golden acorns and white lights on the 12-foot artificial tree.

"No angels here," Rosso said from atop a stepladder.

"Helen here is the angel."

This report includes information from The Associated Press. P-I reporter Kery Murakami can be reached at 206-448-8131 or

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