Happy Holidays. All of Them.

A couple of years ago, I was a frequenter of a message board for moms, moms-to-be and aspiring moms. At first it was a fun place to go and discuss the kind of things that no one in real life wanted to hear about, such as ovulation. After a while, though, the fertility and pregnancy conversations lost their allure and I ventured onto the general subject matter forums. That may have been one of the biggest mistakes of my life. It turns out that message boards – or at least this message board – are where people go to state their opinions, find others with similar opinions, and gang up on anyone who disagreed with them. And the factionalizing wasn’t limited to hot button topics such as politics; the shrill posturing and belittling extended into such mundane subjects as whether it’s ok to leave shopping carts loose in a parking lot. Did you know that you’re scum bound for damnation if you leave your shopping cart loose? You’re also scum bound for damnation if you leave you child in the cart while you put groceries in the trunk, especially if the temperature is below about 65 degrees.  Yeah. That board was educational, to say the least.

One of the most startling discussions I was privy to was one about what retail workers say to customers in the month of December.  This is apparently a subject of great dissent and the future of civilization relies on getting the answer just right. The women who were discussing this had the answer: one should say “Merry Christmas” and nothing but “Merry Christmas” because, and I quote, “Jesus is the reason for the season”. So. There.

Yeah. Um…except that the Maccabees were victorious over the Syrians several hundred years before the birth of Jesus so…Hanukkah came first.  Nyah.

I never actually said that to the vehement Christmas-defenders on my message board because I didn’t especially want to be cyber-eviscerated but I was shocked at their deep sense of affront to the all inclusive “Happy Holidays” as December greeting. I had always thought of that phrase as being a pleasant catch-all, a nice way of wishing people an enjoyable time celebrating any holiday from Thanksgiving to New Year’s because the likelihood is that anyone you speak to will recognize at least one of the panoply of holidays that stretch from November to January. I don’t ever presume to know what people are celebrating at this time of year because it’s pretty hard to tell unless a person is wearing obvious markers of faith such as a a yarmulke or a Muslim head scarf (and even then I’m not likely to wish someone a blessed Ramadan or Eid ul-Fitr because I can never remember the correlation of the Muslim calendar and the Julian calendar and don’t want to sound like an idiot). And I certainly don’t feel the need to press my holiday preference on people without knowing if they share it. Willfully wishing someone in a yarmulke a “Merry Christmas”  or “Happy Solstice” would really just make me an asshole, don’t you think?

But there are people out there who have really drunk the “assault on Christmas” kool-aid and they genuinely think that saying anything other than Merry Christmas is a deliberate and malicious attempt to derail Christians from their spiritual path. I’ve even heard of these people deciding to boycott stores that use “Happy Holidays” as the greeting of choice because they think it’s an attempt to secularize the season. They don’t seem to give a damn about the numerous other holidays than can take place during December. Instead, they keep their Christmas blinders on and ignore the fact they they might be wishing a “Merry Christmas” to someone who doesn’t celebrate it or appreciate being told to do so.

And that? Is religious chauvinism.

I personally recognize about four different winter holidays: Hanukkah because my father’s side of the family is Jewish, Christmas because my mother’s side of the family is Christian, the Solstice because I have pagan leanings and love the celebration of darkness to light, and New Year’s because I like drinking. So you can pretty safely toss a holiday greeting of any sort in my direction and you won’t be wrong. But I’m weirdly multi-theistic and you’re not always going to get so lucky. That’s why “Happy Holidays” was such a great compromise greeting: it applies to everyone and leaves out no one and makes no assumptions about personal faith. But now there are people who might beat you with a tinsel garland for saying that. Pretty soon the only safe thing to say in December will be “Have a great day!” . Or perhaps a preemptive “Fuck off!” in case a person might about to wish you a “Happy Solstice” when you’re a devotee of another holiday and don’t want to bother respecting anyone else.

I say we all agree to be nice this month and assume that anyone talking to you is doing it out of a spirit of goodwill towards  their fellow man. Don’t get offended by holiday greetings, even if they’re not overtly for your favorite holiday. There’s enough in this world to get upset about, the words “Happy holidays” shouldn’t be on the list.

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25 comments for “Happy Holidays. All of Them.

  1. Shannon
    November 30, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything on today’s blog, and enjoyed reading it so much. So nice to hear a voice of reason in the middle of all this seasons retail and religious madness!

  2. LCW
    November 30, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Bravo!! I agree with you, and although we celebrate Christmas I do not begin to presume what others believe and celebrate. We always write Merry Christmas on our annual cards, but I’m not offended by a Happy Holiday in the least.

  3. November 30, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Agreed. I always try to make sure to incorporate everyone’s beliefs when choosing “Christmas” Cards. We send out Happy Holidays cards because many of our friends and family do not celebrate Christmas.

    As (almost) always, I fully agree with you on this. Now, when are we getting together to drink?

  4. November 30, 2010 at 9:16 am


    I say “Merry Christmas” because that’s what I celebrate. Simple as that. But I don’t get offended when someone says “Happy Holidays” to me.

  5. November 30, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I say Merry Christmas to people I *know* celebrate Christmas. Otherwise I just say “hi.” Because I am not a walking greeting card. However, now that I live in the deep south, I’m going to start wishing people a blessed Ramadan just to screw with them.

  6. Mae
    November 30, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Word up. I say Happy Holidays unless it’s a close friend or family member who I KNOW celebrates Christmas or Hannukah. Basically if I know what they are celebrating I wish them a happy that. If I don’t know for sure I wish a Happy Holidays. Years like this one where we have Jewish family visiting over Christmas, they’ll get a Happy Holidays because Hannukah will be over by then and how weird is it to wish someone a happy holiday that’s already over with? I don’t go around wishing other people “Happy Birthday” on MY birthday so I tailor the message to the receiver when possible, otherwise they get the catch all.

    Happy Holidays to YOU!

  7. November 30, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Back when I participated in that sort of message boards there was something about how we should all boycott The Gap because…I don’t remember. Their commercials somehow included a religion Other! Than! Christianity!!!! and that made them all child-murdering devil-worshipers. It was the most ridiculous campaign ever but I felt like the only person on the internet who felt that way.

    And for the record, not returning your cart to the corral DOES make you scum bound for damnation. And also a communist.

  8. November 30, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I usually say Merry Christmas, because it is just what I celebrate. I sometimes think first and say happy holidays but I don’t think its an assault on Christmas for people to say Happy Holidays. it IS the holidays and I love them :).

    Our cards do say Merry Christmas though and I do send them to some of our non Christian friends and the consensus is they are cool with it because its what we celebrate and I like Merry Christmas on our Christmas Cards.

  9. November 30, 2010 at 10:58 am

    OMG. This is what is going around on my facebook:

    “It’s Christmas NOT X-mas!!! Don’t remove Christ from HIS birthday!!!Post this if you agree. Please don’t X out the Lord!!!!! (I want to see this on everyone’s wall!!!) Also, the saying is Merry Christmas, NOT Happy Holidays. If you can’t say “Merry CHRISTmas” to me, then just smile and ………move on”

    Merry Xmas doesn’t bother me bc i sometimes use it to fit it inside 140 characters. AND some people celebrate Christmas that aren’t Christians. and I don’t care what other people believe.
    Also there are about 80 zillion other holidays in December. So just because I say Happy Holidays doesn’t mean that I will burn in the pits of hell.
    Oh and that Jesus? He was Jewish. so hah.
    I just want EVERYONE to understand that I hope they are happy on whatever holiday that they choose to celebrate.

    AND I agreed with Suzanne. put your carts up or suffer the wrath of 10 thousand hells. and Hitler. or something like that.

  10. November 30, 2010 at 11:03 am

    AMEN! To all of it! I do mostly say Merry Christmas or Merry C’mas if I’m squeezing it in on Twitter. but Happy Holidays is wonderfully pleasant and having worked in my family’s jewelry store for EVER you get used to saying it because you just don’t know what people celebrate. And it fits ALL FREAKING HOLIDAYS! Including Easter, 4th of July, Memorial Day, MLK jr Day, Chinese New Year, etc… People are crazy!

  11. Emma S
    November 30, 2010 at 11:22 am

    I do agree with the generalization of the “Happy Holidays” term, though I personally love those rebels who utter “Merry Christmas” to me from behind a cash register. Saying that, I order everything online at this time of year anyway! I worked retail for 12 years, starting at the age of 15…..being in a mall for anything other than an emergency causes me anxiety. People can be @ssholes this time of year. I’d rather just avoid the hubbub.
    However, I don’t believe you are “scum bound for damnation” if you don’t put your grocery cart away. I think it actually just makes you a lazy b@stard.

  12. November 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Yay! So glad I voted for this post last night… It was well worth it! As I said – It’s nice to hear someone else rant about it for a change. And, may I say, you do so far more eloquently than I do!

    You enjoy your day! And let’s not forget… Happy Holidays!

  13. November 30, 2010 at 2:38 pm

    I agree, Happy Holidays covers all the bases in a perfectly benign, unoffensive, completely neutral All Switzerland kind of way. When did our right to never be offended by anything ever in our entire life become a god-or-government given right?

    Have you seen this story about the atheist billboard?

  14. November 30, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Well stated! A nice, an necessary, post.

  15. anthrogrrl
    November 30, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    As usual, you manage to sum up my feelings on a topic with elegance, succinctness, common sense, and a dollop of humor. What is so wrong about NOT being explicitly Christian and including everyone? But then again, I won’t be offended if someone wishes me a happy holiday-I-don’t-celebrate-and-they-do either.

    As for the Islamic religious calendar? While I can’t give you the exact details, from what I can tell it rotates wildly in comparison to the Gregorian one, so some years Ramadan is in January, some it’s in August, and it could be anywhere in between. But I would assume that there is a winter-specific holiday in there that would tend to stay put — unfortunately, I hung out with all the secular Muslims who simply celebrated the Russian all-encompassing Novom Godom, which is Christmas, Halloween, and New Years all rolled into one.

  16. November 30, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I love it – I am, from now on, just going to give everyone I run across a cheery “Fuck Off!” for the holidays. You are a genius!

    [Also, speaking as a lapsed Muslim married to a lapsed Catholic and raising an agnostic, a nice “Happy Holidays!” is never amiss.]

  17. Amy
    November 30, 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Happy Days kind of says it all. But I love this BLOG, you rock and todays was very timely. Since I work in retail and have for years I have been yelled at for not saying “Merry Christmas”, it isn’t pleasant but I always smile and say Happy Holidays to all.
    People have a little too much time on their plates if they are going to yell at someone on how they wish to wish them a goodday. And it is true, the Maccabbe’s were way ahead of the birth of the jewish carpenter.LOL
    Thanks for your blog.

  18. November 30, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    As a Jew I think saying Happy Holidays is nice. But I don’t flip out when people wish me a Merry Christmas either.

  19. November 30, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    I agree with you – and I like your holiday selection. I love Thanksgiving too, but I am a turkey-aholic.

    But if someone flipped out if I said “Merry Christmas” I might be sad…

  20. November 30, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I was part of one of those groups a few years back. MSN had all kinds of groups and they should have come with drama warnings.

    I do tend to say Merry Christmas b/c that is what I celebrate. But, someone is welcome to say something different in return…hopefully polite. I’ll probably even apologize and correct myself.

    One thing that did really make me say WTH? was one year when I was working retail and I said Merry Christmas to someone who had just bought a million tons of wrapping paper and Christmas decorations and she bit my head off. Um…what?

  21. November 30, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Wait. Outrageous! You’re taking the reason of the season out of the holidays!?! WE ALL KNOW DECEMBER IS FOR JESUS ONLY!!!111!!! #RandomChristianNerdRage

    Seriously, how people can live like that is beyond me. You would think that people wallowing in that type of stupidity would have drowned. This type of insanity is what makes me not even claim to be a part of the human race. It amazes me these type of people even remember to breath on a regular basis. But they probably breath out of their mouths anyways.

  22. December 1, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Nice post! I say Merry Christmas but am not offended by any greeting. Well, maybe, “hey bitch” would offend me! I’m just pleased when people are nice!

    xo Susie

  23. Erica Snipes
    December 1, 2010 at 11:35 am

    The gist of it should be: “be nice or shut it.” I’m a Christian, I believe in Jesus, I believe in God. I am also smart and try not to be too closed minded. Because of those things I am aware that there are other religions in the world, and there are people who don’t believe in the same religion I do. I think “Happy Holidays” is fine, but I prefer to say Merry Christmas because that’s what I celebrate. Still, I’ll say it with a smile and be nice about it, just in case the unknown person in front of me is not a christian. If they actually tell me they don’t celebrate Christmas, which is rare, I will simply say Happy Holidays and move on. No big deal…just be nice!

  24. December 1, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Either I was in that message board, or a different one with the same argument. I, stupidly, got involved and got attacked because I am fully aware that there are other religions and other beliefs in this country and not everyone celebrates Christmas. Silly me.

    I was also attacked in another message board because I didn’t breastfeed my daughter in front of my teenage step-sons. Apparently I was teaching them that breastfeeding was gross. Because catching a glimpse of your step-mother’s nip is not.

    Needless to say, I stay away from message boards.

  25. Sue
    December 8, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Hello and happy holidays. I’m new to the site and am really enjoying the posts. I love this thread. I love to point out to people that Jesus was not born on December 25th. By their own admission, the church borrowed the already-existing 12/25 celebration of the birth of the God Mithra. So in the spirit of moving the mountain to Mohammed, the early church borrowed the holiday and many of the rituals and traditions therein. This is not a secret.

    In short, it’s my feeling that if people are that adamant about putting the Christ back in Christmas, they should petition church leaders to put the celebration of his birth back in the spring where it belongs. You know, that time of year when shepherds would be watching their flocks by night.

    Their stunned silence is very reassuring 🙂

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