Brussels Abuzz Over Decision to Replace Christmas Tree With Light Display

Photo Credit: Alsace/Brussels News

The War on Christmas is already raging over in Brussels, Belgium, where media reports indicate the city’s traditional Christmas tree is being replaced this year with what one blog calls an “electric winter tree” (however, a translation from Belgium News calls the structure an “electric Christmas tree”).

While many are expressing outrage, others are defending the action as a means to modernize the way in which the city observes the Christmas holiday.

Instead of a pine tree, Brussels’ Great Market will host a “work of art of light” display, a giant sculpture that is in the shape of a tree. Complete with staircases, the modern take on one of Christmas’ most familiar tenets is unique in that it can be climbed upon, with onlookers heading to the top where they can observe a panoramic view of the city.

According to one description, the “tree” will be 23 meters high. When it turns dark, the structure will light up and play songs, offering a “show” to onlookers every 10 minutes. Adults and children will be charged a small fee to use the electronic tree, with the monies being turned around to help a non-profit group that serves the poor.

“It is an illuminated artwork above a terrace where people can look to the city,” said Mayor Freddy Thielemans, according to Brussels News. ”[Let's us enjoy] the trees in the forest and [let's] us enjoy the view from the terrace.”

Councillor Bianca Debaets, a city councilwoman, is now speaking out fervently against the decision to axe the traditional Christmas tree display. Her response to the decision to have an electronic display comes after the city announced its new plans last Wednesday.

Brussels Abuzz Over Decision to Replace Christmas Tree With Light Display

The traditional Christmas tree. (Photo Credit: Brussels News)

While the city denies that the decision to strike the traditional tree was religiously rooted, this is exactly what Debaets is claiming — that faith was “the decisive factor.” According to a translation of her words, the councilwoman has called for tradition to be kept alive and for faith to not serve as reasoning for the Christmas tree to be kept from public view.

“What next?,” she asked. “All eggs from the city [be banned] because they refer to Easter?”

The mayor’s office, though, has reiterated that the decision to create the light structure has nothing to do with anti-religion bias. In fact, Nicolas Dassonville, a spokesperson for Mayor Thielemans, notes that a nativity scene is being left in tact — purported proof that anti-Christian bias isn’t at play. The light structure, the city argues, actually emphasizes the Christmas tree more.

Despite this explanation, many in the community want the traditional Christmas tree to, once again, be displayed. Already, a petition launched has garnered 9,400 signatures in support of the display that typically graces the city’s square.