By Cathleen Leitch
Whether you should say “Happy Holidays” instead of a particular holiday greeting has been a controversy for some time. Many are offended when someone wishes them a happy holiday, but they do not celebrate that holiday. These people are missing the point of the saying “Merry Christmas.” When someone wishes you a happy holiday, whichever it may be, they are simply spreading good tidings.
I do agree that when addressing a large crowd of people of potentially different religions, the phrase “Happy Holidays” is appropriate. However, if the crowd all celebrates the same holiday, such as a mass in a church or ceremony at a synagogue, their respected holiday can be wished. It is common courtesy to not wish someone who celebrates Christmas a “Happy Hanukkah,” but if it happens, then so be it. The holiday season is all about sharing love and happiness with one another, despite religious differences. Not accepting a simple gesture from one friend to another creates hostility.
When people celebrate a holiday they love, they have the right to write on their Facebook: Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, etc. This is the one time of year where people are most friendly: They try to be nicer than usual and often show this by spreading holiday cheer.
The main problem I have with not being allowed to say “Merry Christmas” is the restrictive aspect. Personally, if someone wished me a happy holiday that I don’t celebrate, I wouldn’t be offended. I would accept that they were simply wishing me a good day. That day may be important to them and not to me, but so what? Why should I get upset because someone was being nice? We don’t censor ourselves for other times of the year, why Christmas? It is the most popular holiday of the season, but not because Christians want to force their beliefs on you. The reason that Christmas is so popular is that a lot of people take part in this holiday, even those who don’t believe in any religion.
Many cultures around the world have different beliefs and different holidays. On New Year’s Eve, you don’t pick and choose whom you wish a Happy New Year to. The Chinese, for example, have a different new year, and thus don’t consider Jan. 1 the beginning of a new year. People say “Happy New Year” to them. Why is that OK? How is that any different from the holiday season? The only difference is religion, which makes the censoring feel discriminatory. The point of “Happy Holidays” as opposed to “Happy Hanukkah” was to reduce cultural animosity. But in the end, changing a word or two won’t make peace between different cultures.
If it’s courtesy you’re looking for, then tell someone what religion you are and they will tell you “Happy Holidays.” If, by mistake, a friend offers you a “Merry Christmas,” then just offer them a “Happy Kwanzaa” because it’s not the statement, it’s the sentiment.