Happy Holidays

To some, the term “Happy Holidays” is an inclusive term that encompasses multiple holidays celebrated annually in December, as well as New Year’s; to others, it is an exclusionary term that removes a necessary emphasis on or acknowledgement of Christmas. People across the political spectrum debate whether it’s better to wish someone “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas" (while some are fine with either term). There is disagreement about whether "Happy Holidays" honors diversity by including other holidays, or subverts diversity by erasing one specific culture and religion.

Happy Holidays is used to encompass those who celebrate Christmas as well as those who may celebrate Hanukkah (a Jewish holiday), Kwanzaa (an African-American celebration),  Winter Solstice (a Pagan celebration) and/ or New Year’s; some use it to  avoid assuming their interlocutor is Christian. They see it as a kind and inclusive way of wishing others well. They do not see it as their place to assume whether or not someone else celebrates the Christian holiday of Christmas, but instead see “Happy Holidays” as a respectful alternative.

Others see changing “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” as detracting from or minimizing the cultural and religious significance and importance of Christmas. They argue that America is primarily Christian, and most Americans celebrate Christmas (whether culturally or religiously) and an attempt to erase that from our language symbolizes a loss of identity. They argue, the U.S. was established with a foundation heavily influenced by Christian principles (although many non-Christians may dispute this perspective) and Americans have been subverted into feeling guilty or wrong for acknowledging their cultural history and religion by saying “Merry Christmas.” Furthermore, it would be more respectful to acknowledge the religious identity of the person you are engaging with (though some who celebrate Christmas are not religious), some say, than to be more general because for many, faith is an important cornerstone of the holiday. Some also conclude that those who do not celebrate Christmas will not or should not be offended by acknowledgement of a holiday that does apply to and is celebrated by the majority of people in the nation. 

Some argue that neither “Happy Holidays” nor “Merry Christmas” is useful because each is now taken as a badge of group identification rather than as a cordial greeting. Others do not pay significant attention to which term is used as a greeting, seeing them as interchangeable, because both are relatively common and may not be used in an intentionally partisan way. Although the greeting is not always partisan in intent, it can be interpreted as an indicator of whether someone is willing to change their language in an attempt to be inclusive or if someone would rather resist cultural pressure to change their traditional language to appease small portions of the population. 

Others merely see “Happy Holidays” as a way to bridge the religiously diverse celebrations with the New Year celebration, and would claim that regardless of beliefs, this is a way to acknowledge the hustle and bustle of the season and extend good wishes to others.