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A spirited case of holiday icon-envy

December 06, 2007|Nia-Malika Henderson | Newsday

LONG BEACH, N.Y. — Apparently, when it comes to holiday symbols, size does matter.

At least it did to some folks in Long Beach, who were none too happy with the elfin Christmas tree planted next to a 20-foot-high menorah at Kennedy Plaza in front of City Hall.

They called, they sent letters, they testified at a public hearing.

Long Beach resident Rick Hoffman put it this way: "What's up with the giant menorah and the Charlie Brown Christmas tree?" he asked.

"We wish it would have been bigger," said City Manager Edwin Eaton, who added that the city looked as far away as Canada for a bigger tree. "This year is going to be kind of a 'bah, humbug' Christmas."

Well, not anymore.

On Wednesday, the city manager made his own wish come true.

After enduring a week of phone calls, jokes and even a City Council memo about the vertically challenged 7-foot tree, he ordered up a new one.

The 20-foot blue spruce is about the size of the menorah. Hoffman, who saw the new, yet-to-be-lit tree Wednesday night, said it was beautiful. "At least we have one to the menorah size. . . . It's actually a little bigger," he said.

However, some considered it a game of religious one-upmanship.

In a letter to Eaton, residents only known as D. and E. Grube said the "dwarf-sized Christmas tree" was insensitive and disgraceful:

"The menorah is statuesque and a pleasure to view, but, regrettably, the diminutive size of the Christmas tree can only be perceived as an insult to the Christian community residing in Long Beach."

That's way harsh, Eaton said, although he thought the size differential was ludicrous.

"I'm a Christian. . . . You hate when it gets down to that," he said. "It was small, yes, but it was going to grow."

On Wednesday morning, the old tree, a Bacheri spruce, was stripped of its lights, dug up and whisked off to a mall, where it will live out its days far from judging eyes and Christmas glory.

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