PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The holidays are officially underway at the Rhode Island Statehouse.

Secretary of State Ralph Mollis lit the Statehouse Christmas tree Thursday evening.

The annual tradition had become mired in controversy after some residents angrily protested Gov. Lincoln Chafee's use of the term "holiday" tree. Chafee, following the example of past governors, had said his word choice reflected Rhode Island's religious diversity and its founding as a haven for tolerance.

This year Chafee backtracked by calling it a Christmas tree in invitations to the lighting. Chafee didn't attend because he was in New Jersey to speak at Princeton University.

Providence resident Aussia Reed prefers the Christmas label, which she says is more traditional. Reed attended the lighting and says this year's tree — a 17-foot blue spruce — is beautiful.

Shutterstock/Stephen B. Goodwin