I love Christmas trees — not just the lights, color and fragrance, but the symbol of everlasting life and the Nativity star that recalls Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. I love Easter, too, mostly the yearly reminder of Jesus’ victory over the grave, but also the sight of children hunting eggs they dyed with their families the night before.
It’s because I love these seasonal customs that it’s so irksome when someone who spends far too much time dredging up negativity from antiquity says: “Hey, don’t you know Christmas trees and Easter Eggs have their roots in paganism?” In fact I do know that, but I also know it’s fairly common for symbols over time to acquire new and often vastly different meanings.
It happens with words, too. In the English of King James, “prevent” meant to make something happen, not to stop it. In the first century, ekklesia was a generic Greek word for an assembly of people meeting together for almost any reason. It was Jesus who chose the word to describe the faith community He would build and Paul the Apostle who transformed it into the term now understood almost universally as an assembly of people gathered for worship — church.
Was “Ole Miss” once what Southern slaves called their plantation mistress? Was it the nickname of a locomotive that ran from Memphis to New Orleans? Was it both? The key word is “was.”
More relevant to me and to many others who love the university is what Ole Miss is, what it means today. To us, Ole Miss is unsurpassed beauty. It is memories drenched in red and blue. It is an endearing title that immediately and naturally conjures faces of beloved people and pivotal stories in our life’s narrative.
There will always be those who insist that negative connotations of the past define Ole Miss. They’re free to do so; we will embrace the Ole Miss of today.
Merry Christmas, Happy Easter and Hotty Toddy!
John Helveston is a HottyToddy.com contributor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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