OPINION: Why ‘Happy Holidays’ is a more inclusive saying than ‘Merry Christmas’

Rickie Thayer

"Happy Holidays" tends to be a more inclusive greeting.

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As the holidays approach, the question of whether or not to greet people with “Merry Christmas” troubles many. Since some celebrate seasonal holidays other than Christmas, knowing what to say and navigating the politically correct way to greet someone during the holiday season can be difficult. A solution is to say “Happy Holidays” to all as this is a more inclusive greeting.

According to All Things Christmas, a site that provides information on the holiday, wishing each other a “Merry Christmas” has been a custom since 1699. Back then, an English admiral sent an informal letter to his friend using the phrase “Merry Christmas.” The phrase caught on and has been the norm, appearing in countless songs, movies and plays.

Recently, many who do not celebrate Christmas have started to become more irritated about others wishing them a “Merry Christmas.” “Happy Holidays” covers more traditions, including but limited to Christmas. The phrase is a more general saying that is appropriate for many different situations.

Coincidentally, those who do celebrate Christmas are offended sometimes when someone tells them to have a “Happy Holiday.” Since they participate in Christmas, they usually expect to be greeted with “Merry Christmas,” but a person’s religion is not usually known based on their outward appearance. Thus, using a specific greeting can be risky.

Besides the few, the likelihood of offending someone with “Happy Holidays” is slim since the greeting is so inclusive. However, wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” is fine if in fact they celebrate Christmas. Similarly, if someone is Jewish, wishing them a “Happy Hanukkah” is respectful – it shows acknowledgement and respect to their individual religion. Still, if this information is not known, “Happy Holidays” is a safe choice.

“Merry Christmas” does not acknowledge any other holiday besides Christmas, so saying “Merry Christmas” may be seen as a disrespectful gesture to those who do not celebrate that holiday. “Happy Holidays” is a better and more inclusive greeting to use this holiday season.