The use of "holiday tree" in invitations to the tree-lighting ceremony the past two seasons angered many constituents, and he wanted to avoid a three-peat, the governor said in a statement posted on his official website.
"In 2011, my first year celebrating December in the Statehouse I gave a simple six-word instruction to the planners of the annual tree lighting: 'Do what they did last year,' the governor wrote.
"Despite the myriad of pressing issues facing Rhode Island and the nation, this presumably happy event became a focal point for too much anger. Strangely lost in the brouhaha was any intellectual discussion of the liberties pioneered here in Rhode Island 350 years ago in our Charter.
"Because I do not think how we address the Statehouse tree affects our 'lively experiment,' this year's invitation calls the tree a Christmas tree."
Chafee said he would light the tree at a ceremony in the rotunda Thursday afternoon.