Every December the same dilemma presents itself on whether one should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Depending on what a person celebrates, their opinion towards saying “Merry Christmas” varies. 

“Happy Holidays” needs to replace “Merry Christmas” in everyday dialect when greeting others this holiday season, because it is more inclusive of all religions instead of just one. The effects of saying “Happy Holidays” improves the overall acceptance of all religions.

The point of the change from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” is not to diminish the importance of one specific holiday, but to include the rest with it. “Merry Christmas” remains a common vernacular during the holiday seasons, even though it is not the only holiday being celebrated. Multiple religions celebrate holidays in the season, such as Kwanza, Chanukkah, Ramadan, Omisoka, Yule and Bodhi Day. Every December, the so-called “war on Christmas” erupts with hostility from both sides of the dispute.

Even retailers changed the way they market the holiday season to appeal to the general consumer. Just a few years ago brands like GAP and Old Navy completely removed Christmas from their marketing. Two years ago, there was an uproar in Maryland  schools over the decision to change “Christmas Break” to a more comprehensive “Winter Break.” Last year, the Starbucks “red cup” took center stage when Starbucks announced the removal of “symbols of the season,” which included reindeer and ornaments. Starbucks Vice President Jeffrey Fields said “[the company] wanted to usher in the holidays with a purity design that welcomes all of our stories.” Although roughly 90 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, that does not mean they focus on the religious aspect of the holiday. 

A survey conducted in 2013 studied on how many Christians celebrated the holiday season very religiously. They found that 42 celebrated in a strongly religious way, 31 percent said they planned to celebrate in a somewhat religious way, and 26 percent said they will not celebrate religiously. Basically 57 percent of those surveyed would not celebrate in a strongly religious manner. With less than half of Christians focused on the religious aspect of the holiday. It shows a shift in societal norms. Thus making “Happy Holidays” more acceptable.

In this day and age, our country has never been more diverse in both culture and religion. Greeting a stranger in a public space with “Merry Christmas” likely causes an awkward situation if there’s an assumption that the other person celebrates that specific holiday, when he does not. 

Under the First Amendment of the United states Constitution, you are legally allowed freedom of speech. But the problem starts when one disrespects a collective group of people. Even though the matter seems trivial in comparison to disputes of the past, like the oppression of certain races throughout America’s history, it doesn’t take away the significance. Saying “Merry Christmas” sounds more exclusive than saying “Happy Holidays.” When you take a step back and think about the situation from the other perspective, you realize how repressed the nationwide use of “Merry Christmas” sounds. If the majority of our ancestors celebrated Kwanza for example, we’d say “Happy Kwanza” instead. Christians, along with other religions, would be seemingly oppressed by the mainstream use of the that greeting. Saying “Happy Holidays” ends the subjection connoted with “Merry Christmas.” Every religion likes to be acknowledged and respected fairly. 

A 2010 study by www.prri.org asked surveyors if they agree with stores and businesses changing their customer greeting from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings”. Of the people who responded, 49 percent recorded that they thought stores should not change their greeting, and 44 percent felt they should. Then, in 2013, 49 percent of respondents stated businesses should change their greeting while 43 percent argued they should not.

Looking at the facts, people recognize the value in being more open and accepting of others, so greetings should mirror the shifting change in social norms.

Christians potentially argue that “Merry Christmas” does not offend other religions, because the term regards a standard greeting they used in previous years. Yet, their lack of knowledge offends others. When people only acknowledge their specific holiday, they suggest that Christmas is the only holiday worth mentioning. There is a fine line between ignorance and ill-mannered behavior and it transpires when one protests against changing a simple phrase, when a larger group of people will feel accepted if the change eventuates. In the grand scheme of things, arguing to keep “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays” seems childish.

Sadly, Christians see this debate as a ‘war on Christmas’, when in fact, that is not the case at all. It’s an invitation for Christmas to join in with every other winter holidays under the religiously diverse umbrella of the term “Happy Holidays”. “Happy Holidays” ensures the inclusion of every single religion thinkable. It’s a safety net when greeting someone new and having no idea which religion they practice. The term is socially acceptable, politically correct and not offensive to any community. So, “Happy Holidays” to all. 


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By Sofia McGrover

I'm in newspaper and am on the swim team.

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