Merry Christmas! Or should I say Happy Holidays?
Either way, the sentiment's usually the same. And isn't that the point?
Every December, there's always a lot of talk about whether it's acceptable to say "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." To some, saying the former is a sign that respect for Christmas is declining, and some have even referred to the abundance of the "Happy Holidays" greeting as a "War on Christmas."
A common argument against it, as I understand it, goes something like this: Christmas, above all else, represents to Christians the birth of Jesus Christ. So to substitute a secular expression for the name of the actual holiday is to disrespect the religious beliefs of the person you're saying it to, as well as the divine observance itself.
It's become politically correct, some say, to use the expressions "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays," and political correctness has no place in the celebration of Christmas.
We all know that the Christmas season has come to be associated with many things that have nothing to do with the Christian holiday -- or for that matter, with Hanukkah or any other religious celebration at this time of year. Tinsel, stockings, boughs of holly and jingle bells are all part of our culture in December (or as far back in mid-October, depending on the department store you're in), but they don't have any real significance to the true "reason for the season." That's unfortunate to some people. But when someone gives you a holiday greeting without the word Christmas in it, before you get offended, take a moment to think about why they left it out.
The wishing of "Happy Holidays," whether it's said by an organization or an individual, is usually meant to express sensitivity to the fact that many people in this country represent different heritages and celebrate different observances. And we don't always know who celebrates what. "Happy Holidays" is an admittedly generic but adequate way to acknowledge the season without inadvertently offending someone by accidentally giving them the "wrong" greeting.
The point is, more often than not, it's meant to be considerate.
Giving holiday greetings, however they're given, is most often intended to be a warm and friendly thing to do. So consider the person's intention before you get bent out of shape.
Like many, I'm disappointed by some of the ways in which Christmas has become homogenized; sometimes the true meaning gets lost amid the hustle and bustle of shopping sprees and cookie baking. But the way we greet each other isn't one of those ways. Shouldn't we just enjoy the harmony of the season and be glad that we're greeting each other at all?
OK, yes -- there probably are some people who are making a political statement of some kind by choosing to say "Happy Holidays" rather than using the word Christmas. But they're in the minority, so don't let them bother you. Most people are just trying to be nice.
Personally, I celebrate Christmas and I like it when people wish me a "Merry Christmas" rather than something less specific. But if they don't, what harm's done? If someone says to you, "Happy Holidays. I won't tell you to have a Merry Christmas because I think you're stupid and ignorant for using that expression," then yeah, you should probably be offended. But absent the second part, just accept the greeting and move on.
Have a Merry Christmas! And if you want to wish me Happy Holidays, I'll take that, too.