While scrolling through my Facebook feed recently, one particular post made my heart sink. I had been expecting to see it at some point, of course, but not in the first week of November.
"Around here we say MERRY CHRISTMAS not HAPPY HOLIDAYS! We need to stop being so worried about offending people! If you don't believe that, get the hell out of America!"
Though I celebrate Christmas myself with a Clark Griswold-like enthusiasm, the annual battle cry of admonishing "Happy Holidays" in favor of "Merry Christmas" is one tradition that I would love to see disappear. Christmas, even when celebrated secularly, should be humanity at its best. At its core, it's about showing love, generosity, and goodwill toward our fellow man.
What part of that Facebook post sounded like any of those things?
Those who favor saying "Merry Christmas" believe that "Happy Holidays" is part of the (frankly, nonexistent) "War on Christmas," in which Christians are being punished for expressing their beliefs. Devout Christians, who see Christmas as one of the holiest times of the year, have expressed dissatisfaction toward businesses who prefer for their employees to say "Happy Holidays" when dealing with customers. Boycotts have been suggested for businesses that don't acknowledge Christmas specifically. Some have even cited this as a violation of the employee's religious freedom. The problem with this argument is that it is dead wrong.
Corporate mandates to use "Happy Holidays" when dealing with customers don't force the employee to act in a way that goes against their beliefs. These people are more than welcome to go to church and believe what they want to believe. However, when they are clocked in, they are obligated to represent their employer the way the company decides. It makes perfect sense that a business would want to be respectful and welcoming to the largest number of people possible. "Happy Holidays" accomplishes that beautifully.
Telling somebody "Happy Holidays" is a nice greeting. It's an offer of kindness to strangers during this special time of year. The proper response should just be a smile and "thank you," though an increasing number of people are choosing to meet it with anger and a "correction."
So who is really the one destroying the spirit of Christmas here? The person offering a friendly greeting to another human being, or the one who doesn't feel like that the well-intentioned message was good enough and demands something 'better'?
To support that Facebook post's message of "if you don't like Christmas, leave" or presidential candidate Donald Trump saying that everyone will use "Merry Christmas" if he's elected ignores the reality that America's religious landscape is starting to look very different. Though it's currently true that the majority of Americans are Christians, that will not be the case for much longer.
Year after year shows a steady decline of people self-identifying as Christian, particularly with younger people. If this pattern continues, the argument that "Merry Christmas" should prevail because most Americans are Christians will be null in the very near future. While the number of Americans who are nonreligious is indeed going up, so are the numbers for other faiths as well. By building a culture of inclusion now, it will protect the Christian minority when that time comes.
"Happy Holidays" doesn't negate Christmas as much as it just acknowledges that other holidays and belief systems also exist, making it more inclusive and actually, more correct. Christmas isn't the only winter holiday. Millions of Americans celebrate Hanukkah, and this number will grow each year as Judaism continues to rise in popularity. Other traditions are also likely to emerge in this changing cultural climate, as human history has shown.
Instead of viewing "Happy Holidays" as a sanitized, politically correct greeting, it should be embraced as a conscious decision to be more accepting of others. At a time when America is growing increasingly divided politically, making a step towards being inclusive is a good thing. In reality, it makes it much better aligned with the real goals of Christmas anyway.
As a Christmas connoisseur, I do enjoy hearing "Merry Christmas." I also enjoy hearing "Happy Holidays," "Seasons Greetings," or even "Happy Hanukkah," though I know very little about Judaism. I'm willing to smile and accept whatever other warmhearted salutation someone feels like extending my way because it's not ultimately the words themselves that matter, but the intention.
To all the A Plus readers out there, whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Festivus, or the winter solstice: happy holidays!