I’m starting a new feature on the blog called Things White Middle Class People Get Overly Worked Up About. Today’s topic: saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
I’m trying to remember when ‘Happy Holidays” became popular. I even tried googling it, but nothing came up on the first few pages and I didn’t want to put that much research effort into a blog post. I feel like it’s pretty recently though. I can understand it’s intention — not everyone is Christian or celebrates Christmas, and “Happy Holidays” includes those of other faiths or cultures. You can’t tell this to some white middle class people though. You’ll get a lecture about our country’s Christian roots or “Jesus is the reason for the season.” I admit I’m not very adamant about the issue (I’ve even let phrases like “holiday party” slip into my vernacular), but here are my thoughts on the subject.
First, whether Christians like it or not, Christmas has become a commercial buy-buy-buy holiday. I know a lot of people who aren’t Christian but still celebrate the gift-giving aspect of Christmas. People tend to feel uncomfortable around extreme Christians, but “Merry Christmas” isn’t “Accept Jesus as your savior or burn in hell.” I can understand using “holiday” in things like grocery store advertisements, because you might like that giant ham for New Year’s (I almost said Hanukkah…) or another celebration. I also understand store associates want to be inclusive, but I wonder if they’re allowed to mix it up — for example, saying “Happy Hanukkah” to someone buying a menorah and “Merry Christmas” to someone buying an ugly Christmas sweater.
I generally don’t get fired up about the Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas debate, but there are aspects of it that puzzle me. For example, we were in downtown Cincinnati the other day watching Santa repel down a building. When he landed he spoke to the crowd and ended with “Happy Holidays!” He’s Santa — besides Jesus, he’s the most important Christmas person. Surely he should be able to say “Merry Christmas!” I also don’t understand “Happy Holidays” on Christmas cards and gift tags that clearly have pictures of Santa or other images you only associate with Christmas. Are they including New Years in Happy Holidays? (or perhaps my birthday, which falls between Christmas and New Years?)
I know people get really worked up about taking the “Christ” out of Christmas, but maybe we should just be happy the sales associate wishes us a happy or merry anything this time of year — if she’s working retail during Christmastime, she probably hates everyone and everything by now.