‘Ole Christmas’ Gone to PC Culture
By Hannah Haley
The Students Activities Association (SAA) at the University of Mississippi is known for hosting and planning various student led events around campus. Every year the group hosts the annual Christmas Tree Lighting and “A Grand Ole Christmas,” which is open to the Ole Miss and Oxford community. Students and local residents gather for a night full of Christmas fun, with activities such as the annual lighting of the university Christmas tree, ice skating, taking pictures with Santa, and hearing Christmas stories.
This year, however, there was something different about the event.
People still gathered to watch the Christmas tree lighting, but instead of being told to have a “grand ole Christmas” they were told to “Have a Hotty Toddy holiday.” And instead of hearing classic Christmas stories or participating in Christmas karaoke, they heard holiday stories and participated in holiday karaoke.
As it turns out, the SAA renamed “A Grand Ole Christmas” to “Hotty Toddy Holidays.” While the SAA website still lists “A Grand Ole Christmas” as one of its sponsored events, all of this year’s fliers and advertisements referred to this event as “Hotty Toddy Holidays.” And though last year the night was not fully dedicated to Christmas, the night was still called ‘A Grand Ole Christmas.’
The fliers never said why this name change was necessary nor was there ever, to my knowledge, a formal announcement stating that the “A Grand Ole Christmas” would be renamed. The first time I even heard about the change was during this year’s Christmas tree lighting. During this time it was said that the renaming of “A Grand Ole Christmas” to “Hotty Toddy Holidays” was an example of the welcoming nature of our school’s students and the desire for all to feel included.
There was never a formal statement regarding the name change, just spoken words during the event. I also have not seen reports about the name change, nor do I remember participating in a poll asking me how I felt about the name “A Grand Ole Christmas.”
I believe that students should be informed of changes such as these, because if we are not informed, how are we supposed to act? A student poll should have been sent, or at the least, a formal statement explaining why the name was being changed. Just because Ole Miss, along with many other universities, alters a name it does not automatically mean the change is “inclusive.”
The only thing that changed was the name that went from including the word “Christmas” to only including the word “holiday.” The Christmas tree lighting still happened, as did pictures with Santa. If it were truly about representing holidays, why wasn’t there a night dedicated to those other holidays– or why weren’t those other holiday traditions better formally included?
Instead of masking Christmas behind the phrase “happy holidays,” we should be proud of our culture and our traditions. Why can’t we learn from the differences in holiday traditions, instead of being fearful of offending others when we say “Merry Christmas?” There is diversity even in how Christians celebrate Christmas.
As a person who enjoys learning about other cultures and about how others celebrate Christmas and other holidays, I would be interested in attending events that talk about those differences, instead of attending an event with a generic title such as ‘Holiday Night.’ By doing that, all we accomplishing is lumping all celebrations under an umbrella. This does not allow for true discussions about our differences and sadly only serves to suppresses diversity of thought.
Hannah Haley is the founding chairwoman of Ole Miss YAF.