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Hallmark apologizes for changing ‘gay’ lyrics on ornament

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Thursday, Oct. 31, 2013, at 9:11 p.m.

Too bad Hallmark doesn’t make an apology card for this occasion.

A new Keepsake Christmas ornament from the Kansas City-based company looks like your favorite tacky-but-festive holiday sweater, only this one is decorated with the words “Don we now our FUN apparel!”

That, of course, is not quite the line you remember from the carol “Deck the Halls,” which dates to the 16th century.

Hallmark had defended its word switcheroo on the 2013 holiday sweater ornament, saying “gay” is “open to misinterpretation.” But Thursday afternoon, after a day of hullabaloo, the company apologized.

“We’ve been surprised at the wide range of reactions expressed about the change of lyrics on this ornament, and we’re sorry to have caused so much concern,” Hallmark said in a statement.

“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.”

That range of reactions included outrage, although some was probably of the faux variety.

CNN anchor Carol Costello waded into the controversy on her Facebook page. “Oh Hallmark. You didn’t. Oh wait, you did,” Costello began a post.

She ended with: “Homophobic? I say, yes you are.”

Mason Hakes, former chairman of the Kansas City Diversity Coalition, said he wasn’t bothered by the word change, although he could see why some might be.

But he points to “Hallmark’s proven track record” of being a gay-friendly workplace and contributing to gay-related charities.

“I personally know about a dozen individuals who are openly LGBT and thriving at Hallmark,” Hakes said.

He just thinks the creative people behind the ornament were making a play on words. Hallmark certainly wouldn’t do anything “explicitly anti-gay, at least not intentionally.”

Among other viewpoints:

• “Do they support fun marriage?” went one tweet.

• And this one: “If they don’t like gay apparel they’ll be shocked to see what the elves wear!”

• “As (a) supporter of gay rights, this sort of ridiculous action is what gives ‘political correctness’ a bad name,” someone commented on The Star’s website, KansasCity.com.

In an earlier statement, Hallmark said in part: “When the lyrics to ‘Deck the Halls’ were translated from Gaelic and published in English back in the 1800s, the word ‘gay’ meant festive or merry. Today it has multiple meanings, which we thought could leave our intent open to misinterpretation.”

That statement went on to add that the ornament was created in the spirit of fun. “That’s the spirit we intended and the spirit in which we hope ornament buyers will take it.”

The ornament sells for $12.95. Hallmark has no plans to pull the ornament, a spokeswoman said.

The item’s description on the company’s website: “When it comes to Christmas sweaters, gaudy can be good! Hang up this flashy sweater to make your tree’s outfit complete. With its catchy phrase, Don we now our FUN apparel! everyone will be in on the joke.”

Or … maybe not.

To reach Tim Engle, call 816-234-4779 or email tengle@kcstar.com. On Twitter: @tim_engle

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