“Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”?

That is the question.  Whether ‘tis nobler…

Prince Hamlet’s thinking leaned more existential than a choice between appropriate verbiage for a non-secular holiday salutation in the 21st century. Still, it’s a question we modern-day philistines are faced with. And there’s an element of nobility and gallantry behind deciding how to answer the question posed in my essay header.

I’ll get to the quick: while I’m not anal about it, I prefer “Happy Holidays.” You conservatives might say it’s because I’m a leftist liberal.  There’s a grain of truth to that (although I’m not as leftist as some of you might think).  I would say a more appropriate reason is that I often employ the same brain machinations in non-political as political ways. Hey, I am what I am.

When I was a kid I threw around “Merry Christmas” all the time (or in print, the lazier “Merry Xmas”).  I didn’t know anything about religion.  Hell, I barely knew how babies were made.

I’m older and somewhat wiser now.  I now realize that Christmas is a commercial religious celebration (or at least it started out religious), but that a lot of my fellow Earthlings actually are not Christians.  Eureka!  We’ve got Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, paganists, agnostics, and atheists galore here in Uncle Sam land.  (Maybe not in North Dakota…but you know what I mean.)  Lots of smaller cults, too.

I’ll still say “Merry Christmas” in return if I’m greeted that way, because I know the person greeting me is okay with it.  But if I’m doing the initial greeting, and I’m ignorant of the religious or non-religious affiliation of the person, I always say “Happy Holidays.”  Like Mutual of Omaha, it’s an all-encompassing insurance policy.  It covers New Year’s Day, Hanukkah, and I think it usually satisfies atheists and garden-variety, Christian-tinged agnostics like me.

(I shouldn’t forget Kwanzaa, a black cultural celebration occurring just after Christmas.  Kwanzaa’s popularity has evidently declined since its peak in the 1990s, to the undoubted dismay of Hallmark.)


So to those fist-pounding militants who want to “Put Christ back in Christmas,” like the guy around the corner with all the crazy yard signs, I say “knock yourselves out.”  Just don’t foist it on me.  Nothing against Christ—who, by the way, preached humility and tolerance—but I’ll celebrate Christmas in my own way, thank you.

It’s all about politeness.  Or gallantry and nobility. You know, “’Tis nobler.”  Unfortunately, and as we’ve seen with people who are adamant about their “individual rights” and defying “government intrusion” by refusing to wear facemasks in public—masks intended to protect themselves and others—politeness is in absentia in certain dark corners of the country right now.

But in the Christmas spirit, I’ll offer a “Happy Holidays” to even these people.  And throw in a “Be Safe” for good measure.

13 thoughts on ““Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”?

  1. I see it differently, Pete. The perceived sensitivity relating to the expression of Merry Christmas is just another grievance chew toy from the PC Brigades. Kwanzaa was invented in 1966 by Maulana Karenga, a fist-pounding black militant who deemed Christianity a “White” religion that blacks should shun. Since then, our society has degenerated into a quivering puddle of sensitivity mongers who sport COEXIST bumper stickers on their Prius’s but are afraid to say the MC words because a non-Christian might hear it and feel bad. So much for co-existence. Nowadays, corporations and governments bend over backwards to avoid saying Merry Christmas for fear of being accused of insensitivity. It’s Liberal White Guilt with a red bow on it. Sorry for the right wing rant. Happy Holidays, Pete.

    • Don’t apologize, Tad. It’s an open forum here. I actually agree with some of what you say. Before hitting “Publish” I scanned the Wikipedia article on Kwanzaa and saw Karenga’s name. I threw Kwanzaa in as a tag-along because, while I don’t agree that Christianity is a “white” religion blacks should shun (holy Black Power, Batman), I’m perfectly fine with blacks peacefully celebrating their own culture around Xmastime. I think one can separate the celebration from its controversial origins.

      I also agree that a lot of white liberals feel compelled to wear their club ties (just as white conservatives have their own ties). I tried to emphasize in my essay why I, the author, choose to say “Happy Holidays” to people whose religion I’m unsure about. Not because I feel compelled by a PC brigade – I hate most PC, as a lot of it is just censorship by the left – but because I think politeness is unfortunately subjugated in these days of rude socio-political rants (especially on social media). Screw corporations and government, I just think it’s the polite thing to do, much more polite than admonishing people to “Put Christ back in Christmas.”

      (BTW, I bought a Prius last February. I love the fuel efficiency, but the dashboard, with all its damned buttons and colored lights, is like an airplane cockpit.) Happy Holidays (and Merry Christmas) to you too!

  2. I understand where you are coming from. However, December 25 is actually Christmas. Whether someone celebrates it or not is another question. I normally say Happy Holidays unless I know that someone really does celebrate Christmas.

    • Thanks, wife. People say “Merry Christmas” throughout the season, not just December 25. It’s a minor thing, but it just doesn’t seem right (to me) to say “Merry Christmas” if the person in front of me could be Jewish, or whatever. The expression is a majority privilege thing, and I’ve never liked majority privileges. Plus, we’re a much more heterogeneous society than in the 19th century, or even the 1950s. However, Tad is totally correct that PC is going way too far…like everything else these days.

  3. Hey GreenPete!Another terrific blog post… I’m just taking the lazy road to tell you so. btw, Do got me a copy of your new book and I’ve torn into it. Another great read so far which hasn’t surprised me in the least! Hope your Holidays 😁 are bright! See you in 2021! R*

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

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