SEATAC, Wash. – The official Christmas trees may still be missing from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but a few individual airline employees have decided to try to put some spirit back into the holiday.
Employees at both Delta and Frontier airlines took up a collection on Monday and bought a few foot-tall decorated trees for the check-in counter.
The airlines employees' move came after airport officials removed all nine Christmas trees in the building in response to a rabbi's request to add an 8-foot menorah to the holiday decorations.
Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky made the request weeks ago, when he demanded officials add a menorah next to the trees and threatened to file a lawsuit if his request wasn't honored.
Instead, officials decided to remove holiday decorations as a whole. Maintenance workers boxed up the trees during the graveyard shift early Saturday, when airport bosses believed few people would notice.
"We decided to take the trees down because we didn't want to be exclusive," said airport spokeswoman Terri-Ann Betancourt. "We're trying to be thoughtful and respectful, and will review policies after the first of the year."
Bogomilsky said he was appalled by the decision.
"Everyone should have their spirit of the holiday. For many people the trees are the spirit of the holidays, and adding a menorah adds light to the season," said Bogomilsky, who works at Chabad Lubavitch, a Jewish education foundation headquartered in Seattle's University District.
After consulting with lawyers, port staff believed that adding the menorah would have required adding symbols for other religions and cultures in the Northwest. The holidays are the busiest season at the airport, Betancourt said, and staff didn't have time to play cultural anthropologists.
Hanukkah begins this Friday at sundown.
"They've darkened the hall instead of turning the lights up," said his lawyer, Harvey Grad. "There is a concern here that the Jewish community will be portrayed as the Grinch."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.