Every year at the beginning of December some Canadians engage in a ridiculous rhetorical ritual that recycles righteous arguments about whether people should say to one another “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”. It’s a conversation that takes place at the water cooler and on social media. Here, at StaffStat, Inc., not much discussion or debate was had when we opted for the neutral and inclusive “Happy Holidays” in our Christmas cards (yes, we still send out tangible cards).
On one hand I feel that all of this nonsense is not worth discussing at all. It is true, however, that our country is undergoing some profound changes in demographics. We are more religiously and culturally diverse than ever before and this diversity will automatically evoke some strong reactions. Plus, we have a rising population that does not feel affiliated with any religious tradition and this too contributes to the new cultural landscape. It is not surprising that those used to Christianity being the dominant religion in Canada feel unease in this new reality.
This brings us to the Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays debate that is not complicated and is solved with basic etiquette. If you know someone is a Christian who is celebrating Christmas you should say to them “Merry Christmas.” Likewise, say “Happy Hanukkah” to a person you know is Jewish, etc. This courtesy and respect should be part of what it means to live in a pluralistic society and it is easy for all of us to offer to those to whom we are close.
However, if you don’t know the spiritual tradition of a co-worker, friend, or stranger in the elevator but wish to offer them a ‘Season’s greetings’ — a simple “Happy Holidays” is not at all an insult or a denigration of Christmas, or any other tradition. It is an appropriate and inclusive salutation that recognizes that there are many ways that people are observing the season and you don’t know enough to be specific.
That is the very reason that many stores use “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”, because they want to be inclusive and welcome as many dollars, ahem, people, into their stores as possible. So, using “Happy Holidays” is not anti-Christmas, it is pro-business, and we don’t want to be anti-business do we?
Let’s have Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs; Kwanzaa lessons, HumanLight celebrations, and Pagan solstice rituals — let’s do it all. It’s so much more fun to cast a wide net where all can celebrate our traditions together rather than strip everything away to protect the delicate sensibilities of so very few.
Let’s join the wider circle of the many traditions that make up our country. Christmas is about a spiritual event that we honour most in our families and our homes. So, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Super Solstice, Joyous Kwanzaa and to everyone all together — Happy Holidays!