Secretary of state presides over annual lighting ceremony for Statehouse Christmas tree

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PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — The holidays are getting underway at the Rhode Island Statehouse.

Secretary of State Ralph Mollis lit the Statehouse Christmas tree Wednesday night in the Statehouse rotunda. The 15-foot Fraser fir was donated by a farm in South Kingstown.

The annual tradition became the subject of controversy in past years when Gov. Lincoln Chafee called the conifer a holiday tree to acknowledge the state's religious diversity and it's founding as a haven for tolerance. Some residents angrily protested, though previous governors had used the same term.

Chafee abandoned the name last year, saying the happy event had become a focal point for too much anger.

The Heroes' Tree also was lit in the State Room to honor service members and veterans.

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