OXFORD, Miss. (Christian Examiner) – In an effort to be more inclusive, Ole Miss is excluding the word "Christmas" from its annual Christmas event.
"We really wanted to change the atmosphere from last year and that would explain the name change," Kayp Maye, co-director of special events for the university's Student Activities Association, said in an interview with News Watch 99.
For the previous six years, the celebration has been called "A Grand Ole Christmas," but now it will be called "Hotty Toddy Holiday," perhaps a reference to an Ole Miss football cheer or to the beverage hot toddy.
"'Grand Ole Christmas' connoted too much Christianity on campus and so we wanted to have a more inclusive environment for the holidays this year," Maye said.
In response, the American Family Association (AFA) asked Christians to "urge the Ole Miss Student Activities Association to stop using its office to promote an anti-Christian climate and to apologize for using inflammatory language toward people of the Christian faith."
The AFA provides an email for offended Christians to send to the Ole Miss Student Activities Association that concludes, "I urge your office to retract the statement and issue a public apology for using hateful language directed at a particular faith."
OLE MISS RESPONDS
The university protested it was not trying to promote an anti-Christian climate at all. In a statement that appeared in the Oxford Eagle, the university said, "Incomplete and sometimes erroneous reports have created misperceptions about a recent student-led event at the University of Mississippi that has for six years — including this year — involved a Christmas tree lighting and popular Christmas carols."
Though the statement did not refer to Maye by name, it said his quote was "taken out of context and he had insufficient time to give a thoughtful answer." This statement refers to the phrase "too much Christianity," which made headlines.
Brandi Hephner LaBanc, the vice chancellor of student affairs, said, the 21-year-old "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."
In addition to the name change, the event, held on Dec. 2, changed its colors to red, blue and silver to suggest a winter wonderland theme. Music was provided by the Ole Miss Gospel Choir.
"This student organization led a celebration that continued to honor Christmas traditions while welcoming all students to a holiday gathering," LaBanc said.