February 2, 2024

Deck the Halls - What Does Gay Apparel Mean in Deck the Halls?

If you're a fan of Christmas songs, chances are good that you know the one where it's time to "deck the halls" with boughs of holly and mistletoe. It's a wonderful song about a wonderful season, and there are so many things to love about it.

That said, there's an odd little controversy going on right now. A music teacher in Traverse City, Michigan decided to rewrite the lyrics of this holiday favorite to remove all reference to gay apparel. The result was a chorus of indignation from parents who took to the school's Facebook page to share their anger and disappointment. "By taking 'gay' out of 'Deck the Halls,' you are making it a big deal, and essentially teaching elementary students that 'gay' means homosexual sex," wrote one parent.

It's a shame that the word has been stigmatized for so long, but it's not surprising that it's lost its original sense of bright and festive clothing. When the word began to take on a slang meaning of homosexuality in the nineteenth century, it's almost certain that children singing about decking the halls would have snickered at the idea of libertines and prostitutes wearing gay apparel.

Of course, the original version of this popular holiday tune has nothing to do with sexuality at all. The tune comes from Nos Galan, a Welsh New Year's song adapted by Thomas Oliphant in 1862. The lyrics have only ever been a translation of that tune, and they are about decorating for the holidays, not about gay clothing.


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