Press Release

Governor Newsom ices Christmas tree lighting and skips menorah lighting, earns Becket’s lowest (dis)honor CA Governor receives 2023 Ebenezer Award, Becket toasts Williamsburg rabbi for bringing light in dark times

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

WASHINGTON – The most outrageous offender of this year’s Christmas and Hanukkah season, and Becket’s 2023 Ebenezer Award winner, is California Governor Gavin Newsom, who canceled the state’s annual in-person Christmas tree lighting and skipped the menorah lighting traditionally attended by the governor. As if to combine the two slights, the governor said he was canceling the live Christmas tree lighting over fears that anti-Israel protestors would cause disruption.   

Governor Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom announced in a press release on December 6 that the annual Christmas tree lighting—which was set to feature a Christmas market and live music—would instead be streamed on the Governor’s social media accounts. Newsom’s reason for moving the longstanding tradition to a virtual format was the recent flurry of anti-Israel protests which he feared would disrupt the festivities. Rather than allow all Californians to ring in the Christmas season at the capital, the Governor invited only his family and a few select guests. 

“In canceling one of California’s most cherished holiday traditions and skipping another, Newsom can rightly be dubbed the Governor who stole Christmas and Hanukkah,” said Mark Rienzi, president and CEO of Becket. “We hope Governor’s heart will grow three sizes next year, so that Californians can once again celebrate their annual holidays with joy.” 

Each year the Christmas and Hanukkah season inspires a slew of outrageous offenses against the free exercise of religion. At Becket, we do Santa’s dirty work for him, delivering a lump of coal as an acknowledgment of scroogery on a grand scale. Previous Ebenezer Award winners include the American Humanist Association, which tried to stop schools from sending care packages to children in need; the Department of Veteran Affairs, which banned employees at its Salem, Virginia facility from saying “Merry Christmas” to veterans; and the University of Minnesota, which banned from campus holiday colors, Santas, bows, dreidels, and even wrapped presents. (See list of previous winners).   

Finally, this year’s Eggnog Toast, given to an individual or group who has shown persistence in the face of adversity, goes to the Chabad Williamsburg and Rabbi Herber for putting on a Menorah lighting ceremony. In early December, Virginia non-profit LoveLight Placemaking refused to host menorah lighting in part because it did not want to appear to be “supporting the killing/bombing of thousands of men, women & children” in the Israel-Hamas war. In response, Chabad Williamsburg and Rabbi Herber decided to host one of their own so that local Jewish residents could celebrate the beginning of Hannukah. More than 250 people attended the lighting.  

“All Americans should be able to come together in a spirit of joy and hope at the holidays,” said Rienzi. “While there will always be those who seek to divide us, the Christmas and Hanukkah season serves as an important reminder of our need to live together in peace despite our differences.” 

Becket wishes everyone a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a joyous New Year! 

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby atmedia@becketlaw.orgor 202-349-7219.