Was the Ole Miss annual Christmas party renamed because it contained the word “Christmas,” which is “too Christian”? Not exactly.
As Christian Post reports, Ole Miss — that is, the University of Mississippi — recently came under fire after news reports, particularly from conservative sources such as Breitbart, indicated that the University’s annual Christmas Party, “A Grand Ole Christmas,” was renamed “Hotty Toddy Holiday” because the old name was “too Christian.”
Now, the University is distancing itself from those reports, saying that a student’s words were taken out of context and blown out of proportion.
Here’s what happened.
For the past six years, Ole Miss has held an annual Christmas party, “A Grand Ole Christmas,” which has included visits with Santa Claus, arts and crafts, ice skating, lighting of the University Christmas tree, and other activities.
Pics with santa, free pizza, and karaoke? Who wouldn’t wanna come to grand ole Christmas ❤️💚 pic.twitter.com/9Xdqd7fu5P
— Callie Sapen (@calliesapen) December 3, 2014
This year, the Ole Miss Student Activities Association decided to change the name of the party, in an effort to be “more inclusive” and to attract “an older crowd.” Speaking to student media, Ole Miss student Kayp Maye explained why.
“We really wanted to, kind of like, change the atmosphere from last year and that would explain the name change. It connoted too much Christianity on campus and so we wanted to have more inclusive environment for the holidays this year.”
You can watch the interview in which Maye made his comments in the video below.
Almost immediately, Maye’s remarks were seized upon by conservative pundits, and social media commenters, as indicative of political correctness run amok at Ole Miss, if not part of a larger scheme to turn Christmas into a completely secular holiday. One YouTube commenter suggested that the name change completely missed the point of Christmas.
“I suppose they have the right to do what they want, but pretending to be celebrating Christmas without including Christ is a misrepresentation of the holiday season.”
The University issued a statement in response to the backlash, saying that Maye — who is a Christian — was speaking to the media in the spur of the moment and didn’t have enough time to articulate a good answer.
“This is a 21-year-old student who wanted to make all students feel welcome and come to this annual event. He is very sincere in his wish that he had expressed himself better. It is unfortunate that these reports, including repetition of incomplete information on social media, have misrepresented the nature of the event and his intent as a Christian to welcome people of all faiths and backgrounds. This student organization led a celebration that continued to honor Christmas traditions while welcoming all students to a holiday gathering.”
The University also noted that several overtly Christian, Christmas-themed events, arranged by the Student Activities Association, have taken place, and will take place, on the Ole Miss campus, including a gospel choir performance of Christmas hymns.
One Ole Miss student, Baptist Student union member Morris Baker, said he believes the controversy over the name change is much ado about not a lot.
“Since this event was something that originated with the university in the first place, they have the right to do what they want with it. I do not look to the university for their endorsement or lack thereof regarding the proper way to celebrate Christmas.”
Other Southern universities besides Ole Miss are currently embroiled in controversy surrounding Christmas on campus, as well. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville, for example, sparked controversy by reminding staffers that holiday parties at their offices should be free of Christian themes, but also vaguely Christian cultural themes such as Santa Claus, according to WREG (Memphis).
Do you think Ole Miss was right or wrong to change the name of their Christmas party? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Shutterstock/nikkytok]