This post originally appeared on November 22, 2015.
This is not the type of article I usually write. For some, it may be a little controversial. That’s O.K. – this is just my thought and perspective – comments from my readers are always welcome. I find as I age, I am less interested in ideology and more interested in spirituality. I feel a shift in my world view.
Globally, we are facing humanitarian crisis after crisis of gargantuan proportions. Yet, once again, it has started — the continued arguments over the term ‘Happy Holidays’. The articles, news comments, Facebook posts and even political candidates weighing in on what for some is apparently a controversy invoking the idea of a ‘war on Christmas’. Last year I had someone say to me, “I hate Happy Holidays!” As a Christian, I asked myself, “How is it someone is using the word hate in this season of peace, love and joy?”
So, I decided this year to weigh in myself in an attempt to give a different perspective in order to quell what seems to me a silly thing for concern, considering how the world is currently ripping apart at the seams, filled with war, terrorism, hunger, homelessness and on and on and on. In this season of giving thanks, this season of peace, this season of love, I offer this.
The use of the term Happy Holidays is not a recent occurrence. As a child in the 1950s and 60s, I remember my Mother often used the greeting Happy Holidays. My Mother sometimes worked at one of the local stores during the Holiday Season, which in the United States, started around Thanksgiving. In those days, we were a country primarily of Christians, most notably of Protestant faiths. I remember my parents talking about how it was a big step for many when Kennedy, a Catholic, was elected President of the United States.
If, like my Mother, you worked at a store starting around Thanksgiving, can you imagine the clerks saying, “Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,” before handing you your package and receipt? Instead, they said, “Happy Holidays.”
From my point of view, and I was a child at the time so I could be totally off kilter on this one, but it seems to me Happy Holidays was a wish of inclusion. Heck, when I was a kid, Andy Williams sang a popular song, Happy Holiday, which was originally sung by Bing Crosby in 1942 and written by Irving Berlin in 1941. To me, it is still a Christmas song I listen to at Christmas. But, it could be a song for any of the other celebrations during the Holiday Season, as well. So, Happy Holidays was used way before I was born! Yet, some people take offense at its use like it’s a recent occurrence designed to be a ‘war on Christmas’.
I don’t remember any controversy over the use of the term Happy Holidays when I was a child. So, why in recent decades has it become such an issue for some people? Perhaps it is because in the 1950s and 1960s, Christians were pretty much in the majority, at least in the United States. Well, folks, a 2016 poll by ABC news found that 83% of Americans still identify themselves as Christians.
I can’t speak for the rest of the world. But, these days, we live in a much more pluralistic nation and for that matter, the entire world is more diverse. Today, a store clerk would have to add Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice and, a new one I recently heard, Happy HumanLight. If we are a diverse people, a welcoming people, a people wanting to include rather than exclude, than Happy Holidays recognizes our diversity, it welcomes someone regardless of their faith or even if they don’t have one. It includes everyone.
If I know someone is a Christian, I say, “Merry Christmas.” If I know someone is Jewish, I say, “Happy Hanukkah.” And, so on. To me, that is just common courtesy. As a Christian, I am not offended if someone says, “Happy Holidays” to me. It is all inclusive, welcoming and courteous. I recognize the person most likely has no idea what my affiliation is, but is still showing me common courtesy with a wish for a Happy Holiday. It’s about acceptance of differences and not making this all about me and my faith.
This season is not about us individually. It is not about self-righteous indignation. It is not about hate. It is not about creating still more us vs. them situations. It is not about red cups or whether a retailer or someone on the streets says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. We certainly have larger worries as a world. We are all connected as a world. When one suffers, we all suffer. And there is already way too much suffering.
In this season of love, peace and joy, let us put our small differences aside and accept each other regardless of faith or any other differences for that matter. Let us give thanks for our diversity and that we have the ability to make the world a better place. Let us truly make this a season of love, peace and joy.
I leave you with the Buddhist prayer of loving kindness:
May you be well;
May you be happy;
May you be peaceful;
May you be loved.
To all my readers, wherever you are in the world, whatever your circumstance, whatever your faith – Happy Holidays
I liked this post in 2015….and I like it in 2016….Merry Christmas!
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And Merry Christmas to you Paulette!
This was perfectly timed Kathy. Just yesterday I had a conversation with my sister in law about another sister in law who is all up in arms about “Happy Holidays” and she posts it all over facebook and has tied it into a political agenda. It is so damaging to family relationships when someone insists on preaching such an inflammatory message. Thanks for this peacable, rational message at this time of year!
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Well said, Kathy! Another common expression from my childhood was Season’s Greetings.
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How could anyone be offended by someone saying happy holidays? This war on Christmas stuff is all baloney. I love when someone says Merry Christmas to me even though I am not religious. If they say happy holidays, I’m happy with that too. Good post, though. I enjoy your blog very much.
Well said! Thank you for posting this. As you have said, there is so very much suffering and hardship for so many in our country and the world. I am so blessed and can’t begin to imagine the degree of suffering many are experiencing. Kindness, gratitude, love are values we can all express, not worrying about someone saying Happy Holidays. Enjoy the season, Kathy.
Reblogged this on juantetcts and commented:
I love her take on the term Happy Holidays and found this blog both educational and a great read!
Thanks for posting this. You put into words exactly how I feel about the importance of recognizing and including people of all faiths with the term Happy Holidays. It’s not meant to be a war on Christmas. It’s just an effort to respect each person and their joyous celebrations of the season. I’m not a Christian, but most people would assume I am, so I’m happy to hear Merry Christmas said to me and happy to say Merry Christmas to people I know are Christians, but if I’m unsure, Happy Holidays works great. Thanks again.
Thanks Kathy. Maybe one thing to ponder is that we have a secular Christmas and a religious Christmas. Sometimes people are referring to the birth of Jesus and sometimes they are just saying a general message of cheer and goodwill. ❤️️
My absolutely favorite phrases are “happy holidays recognizes our diversity” and “it is inclusive, welcoming and courteous”. Thanks you for putting my thoughts/feelings into words. I love when people wish me Happy Holiday’s with sincerity. We are traveling and the cashier at Wendy’s yesterday said it and smiled; it made me feel good. Of course I smiled back and wished her one as well! So little effort and we both had a happy moment. Wishing you and your family very, very Happy Holidays!
Christmas is many things to so many people. So many Christmas traditions originated in pagan celebrations of the coming of the light, the winter solstice. Was Jesus’ birthday really on Dec 25? Christmas is a religious celebration. It represents a seasonal celebration. So, wishing you Peace, the spirit of Christmas; Hope, the gladness of Christmas; Love, the heart of Christmas.
Happy holidays to you too. Thank you for your wonderful blog.
Your blog is new to me but I want to comment about Happy Holiday as a greeting. I have a collection of Christmas cards from my father who was born in 1910.The year 1931 card says ” Happy Holiday”. Some people grab onto a small thing and make a big deal out of it without any knowledge of the history of what they are talking about.
Gene, Thank you for sharing this information about your dad’s card. You are so correct about people not knowing history. Another one I find interesting is that the original Pledge of Allegiance did not contain the words, “under God”. Those words were added during MCCarthyism in response to the communist scare. Yet there are rumors about removing those words and many people go into an uproar. Thank you for the history lesson and adding perspective to this subject. K