(CNSNews.com) - An early skirmish in this year's "War on Christmas" ended on Tuesday when the nationwide home improvement chain Lowe's apologized for referring to Christmas trees in its holiday catalog as "family trees."
"That was a complete error," Maureen Rich, a spokeswoman for Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse - which serves more than 13 million customers a week in its 1,400 stores across the nation - told Cybercast News Service. "Right now, we're extremely disappointed in this breakdown in our own creative process.
"We are apologizing to customers today for any confusion our holiday catalog created," Rich said. She explained that the full-color document is called a holiday catalog "because it encompasses all the holidays from October through January."
Rich's comments came in response to an "Action Alert" sent out earlier in the day by the Mississippi-based American Family Association. The e-mail stated: "In an effort to avoid the use of the term 'Christmas tree,' Lowe's [is] now calling them 'family trees.'"
"In their Holiday 2007 catalog, containing 56 pages of Christmas gifts, Lowe's advertises hundreds of gift items, including scores of 'family trees,'" the message continued. "In fact, the word 'Christmas' only appears two times in the entire holiday catalog."
"Lowe's evidently did not want to offend any non-Christians; therefore, they replaced 'Christmas tree' with 'family tree,'" the AFA e-mail said. "Of course, if Christians are offended, that is evidently OK.
"An online search of Lowe's does reference some 'Christmas' items. In fact, a word search of their Web site gives the exact same number - 174 - of the word 'Christmas' as it does the word 'holiday,'" the missive added.
"Their Holiday 2007 catalog features scores of products, including lights, wreaths, trees and yard decorations," the e-mail noted. "Most people would associate these items with Christmas, but not Lowe's! Except for two obscure references, they refer to everything in their catalog as 'holiday.'"
The message also contained a link to three pages from the catalog: the front cover and two pages of pre-lit artificial trees with the words "family trees" at the top of one page and "all decked out" on the other.
In addition, the AFA Web site encouraged readers to send an email to Lowe's and "ask them why they refer to their Christmas trees as 'family trees.'"
The catalog's use of the term "family trees" was "a plain old error," Rich told Cybercast News Service.
Those particular pages dealt with Christmas trees, she said, and the creative group responsible for laying out the catalog put "family trees" at the top to mirror the other "family oriented" headlines on each page, she said.
"Lowe's has been selling Christmas trees for more than 60 years," Rich said. "We are committed to doing that, and we are doing that this year again."
"We refer to them as Christmas trees in all of our television and magazine ads and also in our advertising fliers," she added. "We take this situation very seriously and are redoubling our efforts to proofread those catalogs in the future."
Cybercast News Service has documented several examples of what some call the "War on Christmas," the earliest of which were reported in 2000.
The following year, a New York City school was accused of religious discrimination during the holiday season for allowing the display of Islamic and Jewish symbols, but not Christian symbols, while Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano banned Santa Claus displays and other religious symbols on public property.
In 2002, a handful of Massachusetts high school students wanted to give their classmates a small Christmas gift before holiday break, but their religious-themed candy canes instead erupted into a controversy.
A Christian church in Fort Lauderdale was allowed to put up a holiday display claiming that "Jesus Is the Reason for the Season," but it took a court battle for the church to get its message out in 2003, the same year two Palm Beach, Fla., residents sued the town for refusing to allow the display of Christian Nativity scenes on public property alongside displays of the Jewish Menorah.
Christians saw Christmas under a politically correct attack in Australia during 2004, and environmentalists stumped for a treeless Christmas a year later.
But last year, Christian groups claimed they were witnessing a shift in momentum in the "War on Christmas," even though a Christmas-themed event at a public elementary school was changed because parents claimed it illegally spotlighted a "religious" figure - Santa Claus.
Nevertheless, later on Tuesday, a new message went up on the AFA Web site stating that "Lowe's has contacted the AFA and assures us that it is proudly committed to selling Christmas trees this year, as it has done" in the past.
"We appreciate Lowe's for listening to its customers and responding appropriately to our concerns," the site added.
Make media inquiries or request an interview with Randy Hall.
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-brief.
E-mail a comment or news tip to Randy Hall.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.