My kids' Halloween candy had barely gone stale before the first Christmas controversy roared into town, innocently enough in the form of a Hallmark ornament.
The greeting card giant, you may have heard, received flak for trying to be tooooo politically correct, hence its idea to change the lyrics of a certain Christmas carol before slapping it on ornaments shaped like holiday sweaters. The line in question? "Don we now our gay apparel," from Deck the Halls, a carol that has been sung on front porches and at elementary school pageants and retirement home programs since the 1800s.
Thinking the word "gay" might offend a portion of customers looking to purchase Hallmark's sweater ornament, the company changed "gay" to "fun." To Hallmark's surprise, nobody cared about the gay reference; quite the contrary. Many ranted on social media sites that Hallmark acted a bit audaciously by changing the lyrics without consulting anyone, although I'm not sure whom they would ask.
Attention. This meeting of the Christmas Carol governing body will come to order. Present are Mariah Carey, Kenny G, Vince Guaraldi and representatives for Mel Torme, Bing Crosby and Andy Williams.
If anything, I feel Hallmark erred when trying to guess what offends people at holiday time. The word "gay"? Apparently not. Receiving tacky sweaters and other supposedly festive attire as gifts? Now that's a whole other story.
Be honest, does wearing a Christmas pullover laden with real flashing lights and musical bells REALLY add to your holiday cheer? No, it simply lets people know your whereabouts the moment you set foot in the house. My grandmother's Christmas sweater could have been used as a beacon for small aircraft. When we gathered round the table for dinner, we subtly sat her near an electrical outlet in the event the sweater needed recharging. Her orange-and-rust Thanksgiving blouse featuring a three-dimensional turkey that first-graders probably concocted in art class was less noisy and blinding, but still looked as if it needed daily feedings. Perhaps it was the beak protruding from the blouse's lower half. One year, after a little wine, I jokingly held a spoonful of stuffing up to Grandma's naval. She was not amused.
Over the years, I have eagerly opened Christmas packages only to find ties laden with snowmen, socks stenciled with mistletoe and a Santa hat weighed down by electronic parts that caused the hat to play Jingle Bells when I turned my head toward the North Pole. All of these items scream "YARD SALE!" To avoid confrontation and hurt feelings at future holiday gatherings, however, I dutifully wear them while staying clear of any camera phones because, as I frequently remind my children, "once it's on Instagram, it's there forever."
Maybe it's the colors. I can don a red, white and blue shirt and attend a Fourth of July picnic without feeling the least bit self-conscious. But Thanksgiving browns and yellows make me look like rotting fruit, while the greens and reds of Christmas give me the appearance of something found in a juicer. I just want to enjoy the holidays; I don't want to serve as a billboard for them.
So, Hallmark: How about an ornament pleading with customers not to give holiday-themed clothing as gifts and to avoid trotting out the ones they already possess? And if you must tinker with yuletide lyrics, may I suggest this:
I'll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents 'round the tree
The sweater that you give me
Its colors bright and gay
Will stay wrapped in tissue
And returned the very next day
COPYRIGHT © 2013 GREG SCHWEM DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT SERVICES, INC
Correction: The holiday sweater ornament remains for sale through Hallmark.
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