The debut of an abstract electronic Christmas tree in Brussels, Belgium is creating controversy, with some calling it an attack on Christmas, values and traditions.
On November 30th, Brussels debuted the 24 meter (78 feet) tall steel electronic Christmas tree. The tree, named 'Xmas 3', is described as a "contemporary and artistic Christmas tree" by the Brussels city website. The tree is displayed at the Grand-Place as part of the city's Winter Wonders. The tree's sound and light show will be on display every evening through December 30th.
The crowd gathered to witness the unveiling appeared to be excited about the change. According to a BBC report, the light show that accompanied the debut was met with applause and "plenty of oohs and aahs". Miryam Oostling, who was visiting from Leeuwarden, Netherlands, told the BBC:
"I quite like the tree. It's a piece of modern art. It's cosy!"
Others however are not as pleased, launching an online petition, calling for respect of “values and traditions”. The petition has drawn more than 25,000 signatures thus far.
The controversy began in early November when Bianca Debaets, a city councilor from the Christian Democrat and Flemish Party, claimed the city made the switch because the traditional live Christmas tree was too much of a religious symbol. Some have speculated that the change was made so it would not offend Muslims in the country. Debaets told Expatica:
"What will be next? Will all Easter eggs be banned in Brussels because they are a reference to Easter?"
The city of Brussels denies Debaets claims, saying the change was made because the theme of this year's Winter Wonders is "light". City officials also pointed out that a nativity scene and smaller live Christmas trees are on display around 'Xmas 3'. Brussels City Councillor, Philippe Close, told BBC:
"What we want is just to modernize the pleasure of winter, of this Christmas market and all the image of Brussels. For people who want a traditional religious symbol, we have the nativity scene here in the square. For people who want modernity, we have this new tree."