Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas "Gay" or "Fun?" by Melissa Koch

After apologizing last month for changing the word of a well-known Christmas song from “gay” to “fun” on an ornament, Hallmark continues to sell the product.

Hallmark received much criticism from shoppers, some of whom stated they would discontinue shopping at the company, after it came out with the new ornament. The ornament is in the shape of a sweater in printed with the lyrics to “Deck the Halls.”  Instead of the traditional “Don we now our gay apparel,” it reads “Don we now our fun apparel.”

There have been many complaints that the change is unnecessary and offensive. By eliminating the traditional word, people argue that Hallmark is making the statement that it is not ok to be gay.

Director of the Pride Center at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, Willem Van Roosenbeek, says it didn’t make sense for Hallmark to change the lyric. “I think it was a little foolish. Gay meant fun during the time period when that song was written. It can be heard in a number of Christmas Carols. It was appropriate for that time.” Van Roosenbeek is discouraged that the meaning has changed. “I don’t hear any people using it in that way today; which is unfortunate, because it had a very positive connotation.”

Asked if Hallmark should stop selling the ornament, Van Roosenbeek said he didn’t want to force them to stop selling it. Instead, he believes this story can be used to set an example. “Hopefully it will open up dialogue about the word use, have people discuss what to do about these traditional holiday songs now that the meaning has changed. We should use this as an opportunity to talk about the subject.”

Hallmark first tried defending the lyric change last month. “‘When the lyrics to 'Deck the Halls' were translated from Gaelic and published in English back in the 1800's, the word 'gay' meant festive or merry," according to a statement released in November. "Today it has multiple meanings, which we thought could leave our intent open to misinterpretation."

When some customers argued that this statement was not enough, Hallmark issued an apology over Twitter saying, “We never intend to offend or make political statements with our products, and in hindsight we realize we shouldn't have changed the lyrics on the ornament.”

The ornament can still be found on the Hallmark website selling for $12.95.