The University of Mississippi, located in the heartland of the South, in Bible-belt country, has changed the name of its annual “A Grand Old Christmas” to “Hotty Toddy Holiday” out of concern the “Christmas” reference might be seen as offensive.
The school also changed its annual Christmas tree lighting event to reference “tree lighting,” but not Christmas, the Daily Caller reported.
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“We really wanted to kind of like, change the atmosphere from last year and that would explain the name change,” said Student Activities Association spokesman Kayp Maye to the Daily Mississippian. “‘Grand Ole Christmas’ was just – it connoted too much Christianity on campus and so we wanted to have a more inclusive environment for the holidays this year.”
Maye said the goal was also to attract “a more mature audience” with the newly revamped theme, which included a red, blue and silver color palette, the Daily Caller said.
The name “Hotty Toddy Holiday” is related to the “Hotty Toddy” chant used by football fans during tailgating parties. As the Daily Caller notes, the full chant is: “Hotty Toddy, gosh almighty, who the hell are we? Hey! Flim flam, bim bam, Ole Miss, by damn.”
(UPDATE: One day after this report was published, University of Mississippi spokesman Jon Scott contacted WND with the following statement:
“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. Last Wednesday night (Dec. 2), the student activities association arranged for a Gospel Choir performance of ‘Emmanuel’ and ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas,’ as well as a performance of ‘O Holy Night’ and ‘Silent Night’ by Miss University. Students also organized an ice skating event at the Ole Miss Student Union, photos with Santa Claus, as well as pizza, sweets and hot chocolate. Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks ‘lit’ the Christmas tree.
“The university’s vice chancellor of student affairs, Brandi Hephner LaBanc, was told by a student that his quote to the news media about the event, ‘Hotty Toddy Holiday,’ was taken out of context and that he had insufficient time to give a thoughtful answer. He said the quote does not accurately express his Christian faith or the reason for the name given to the event.
“The vice chancellor said, ‘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.’”)