The Winter Debate – Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas

Cartoon by Miso Ko

By the time December comes around, families start preparing to celebrate the winter holidays. However, Americans progressively get involved in the argument of whether to address one another with “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”

National Public Radio (NPR) cited the U.S. Census Bureau, stating that America’s diversity was consistently increasing. This may be a reason behind the strong reactions to this debate.

It is true that, in some ways, Christmas has become a national holiday. TIME mentioned how this idea could be a result of the practices of decorating trees or writing cards.

However, what about the people who celebrate Hanukkah? Kwanzaa? Winter Solstice? These various holidays that take place in December make the phrase “Happy Holidays” much more appealing. Especially because of America’s growing diversity, we should not make assumptions that a vast majority of Americans celebrate Christmas. Saying “Merry Christmas” gives a sense that you assume the other person also celebrates Christmas, even though that may not have been your intention.

Using “Happy Holidays” may be the best, or safest, solution. The point is not to prevent people from saying “Merry Christmas.” If you know for a fact that someone is Christian, share their Christmas spirit. Likewise, if you know someone is Jewish, wish them a “Happy Hanukkah.”

However, in most cases, though, you might not know the spiritual tradition of a peer, whether they are your co-workers or friends. The only way to quickly end this awkward situation would be to offer them a simple “Happy Holidays.”

Taking the initiative to figure out your peers’ cultures may be ideal, however, it would be difficult for you to acknowledge and respect every single holiday.

It is your choice to decide whether you want to say “Merry Christmas.” But using “Happy Holidays” is not only inclusive of all religions, but it also shows your willingness to acknowledge and learn about others’ backgrounds.

This is not an insult to Christmas or any other tradition with a religious affiliation. Without any implications of a specific religion or religious group, “Happy Holidays” indicates one’s wish to celebrate the winter spirit.