I don’t necessarily get offended when I hear someone say “Happy Holidays” – it depends on the reason and context the greeting is used. “Happy Holidays” is an expression that has been around for a long, long time – it isn’t new. I remember seeing Christmas cards with that greeting, as well as “Tis the Season”, when I was a child (we won’t talk about how long ago that was, but it was definitely before the world started all this “politically correct” crap).
The phrase is intended to be a broad greeting to wish happiness for someone over the course of the holiday season stretching from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. When you use it in that context, I see nothing wrong with it – especially now that we’ve come to be more sensitive to those from other cultures and beliefs.
What I don’t agree with is that it has turned into a mandate in some ways – store clerks not allowed to give a specific greeting or people being vocally offended when someone else doesn’t realize they may not celebrate a particular holiday. Since when is a friendly greeting of any kind offensive – the specific or more general kind? And I don’t see those same stores that mandate no “Merry Christmas” greeting allowed stopping the sale of Christmas trees or other Christmas specific items that boost their sales – can’t have it both ways, guys!
No one can take “Christ” out of “Christmas” for YOU, if that is what is in your heart and your belief! What takes “Christ” out of “Christmas” in general are those who focus solely on the Santa and gifts part of the holiday – not the use of a friendly greeting of “Happy Holidays”.
I feel using “Happy Holidays” is appropriate when you are truly wishing someone a happy holiday “season” and encompassing all the holidays. Bringing joy and well wishes over the season is a good thing and should result in smiles and returned well wishes. It is also appropriate when you are greeting a stranger that you don’t know what their beliefs are – you can’t always tell by looking at someone what religion or culture they celebrate, so to be sensitive of that is being courteous to our fellow human beings, not ignoring any one holiday or forgetting the “reason for the season” – each holiday has it’s own “reason”!
However, if you are talking about a specific holiday or if you know the individual’s beliefs, you really should be more specific and honor those beliefs. If you are talking about Christmas, say Merry Christmas. If you are talking about Thanksgiving, say Happy Thanksgiving. If you are talking about Hanukkah, say Happy Hanukkah. If you are talking about Kwanzaa, say Happy Kwanzaa. And on with any other holidays I may not be aware of or forgetting at this moment! Honor each and every holiday as appropriate to the occasion and the person you are greeting. Afterall – a greeting is more for the person you are offering it to and should be catered to them, not you.
BUT — I still say that a friendly greeting of any kind can’t possibly be offensive if it is genuine, from the heart, and not offered out of sarcasm. If someone greets me with “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Holidays” or whatever friendly greeting I receive, I smile and respond with “Thank you, same to you.” and depending on whether or not I know the person, I may also add “and Merry Christmas to you.”! And I certainly don’t mean it sarcastically in the sense that I want them to know I think they are taking the “Christ” out of “Christmas” or that I am offended that they chose to honor their holiday instead of mine! That is their right, same as it is mine to honor my holiday! I am touched and happy to receive a friendly greeting of any kind and am saddened when my return friendly greeting results in someone taking offense by it. But, if a person wants me to join them in their joy or is just unaware that I may honor a different holiday than they do, why would I be offended by that?
So, come on, people — let’s just be happy about the wonders of the entire season — honor and hold dear the specific holidays we each celebrate in our own way — and stop being offended if someone chooses to greet us differently than we greet others. Life’s too short and precious to spend it being offended by someone wanting to offer a friendly invitation to celebrate something – whatever that may be!
May everyone reading this find true joy in your lives!
For those honoring the same holiday that I do – the glorious birth of Christ:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
For those honoring a different holiday:
I wish you much happiness on whatever holiday you honor!