Chafee cited a 1663 Colonial charter and the legacy of state founder Roger Williams when explaining that not calling the tree a Christmas tree earlier this week is in Rhode Island tradition, the Boston Herald reported.
"I'm just continuing what other governors have done," Chafee said, after dedicating another tree to soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I just want to make sure I'm doing everything possible in this building to honor Roger Williams.
"In my own house, I'm free to have a Christmas tree, and it's with great pride," Chafee said.
Chafee said his office has received a flood of phone calls and e-mails from disgruntled traditionalists.
Parents of children who sang at the State House Wednesday expressed confusion as to why Chafee wouldn't call it a Christmas tree.
"The whole way here, we were getting fired up about it," said Ted Slader of North Scituate, whose fourth-grade daughter, Erica, sang Christmas carols in the State House rotunda Wednesday. "I know he's just a left-wing nut job and everything, but you can't say the word Christmas? The average Joe I talk to, they're fed up with that. To the average person, it's a Christmas tree."
Rae-Anne Laprade, whose daughter also sang in the State House Wednesday, said Chafee is wrong about the tree, and Williams.
"Rhode Island was founded by Roger Williams on freedom of religion -- not absence of religion. For Governor Chafee to try to homogenize this very heterogeneous world is absurd," she said. "It's misguided at least, and it's hurtful at worst."