Saying ‘Happy Holidays’ vs. ‘Merry Christmas’


By Tressa Eckermann – Contributor

It’s that time of year when you hear “Merry Christmas,” often from strangers. In the last few years, though, there has been increasing discussion about whether this is insensitive to those of other religions.

I consider myself a fairly politically correct person. I try to consider other people’s religious affiliations and avoid doing something that may offend them. On the other hand, I’ve never really thought that the words “Merry Christmas” might be offensive to someone.

The trend these days is to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” You see it on department store commercials and advertisements all around the country. However, they both sound a little off to me. I’m just not the biggest Christmas person. It’s not because I’m easily offended or my religion doesn’t celebrate Christmas; it’s because of all the stuff that goes along with this time of year.

Standing in line for hours to buy someone something that they’re probably not going to like anyway? No thanks. All that holiday music? I’ll pass. I can only take a few songs at a time before I want to rip my hair out. By mid-December I’m usually doing my own impression of Bill Murray in “Scrooged.”

However, even I will admit that hearing a stranger wish me a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” puts a smile on my face, even if it is for the briefest of moments.

I’m not an expert on what offends people; everyone’s different. If “Merry Christmas” really offends people, then most apparently keep it to themselves. How many people have you ever got into a shouting match with because you greeted them with “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays?”

I wouldn’t say that people are making a mountain out of a molehill, though. Everyone is different and different things offend everyone. If you wish someone a “Merry Christmas” and they give you a scandalized look, just apologize and walk away. In my experience, most people aren’t going to say anything (even if they prefer to hear “Happy Holidays”). What’s the point of picking a fight with someone over a simple phrase intended to be a nice greeting?

The holiday season isn’t about picking fights and releasing pent-up anger. It’s the time of year where people are supposed to feel joyous and considerate, no matter what religion they are or holiday they celebrate.

However, because we are dealing with a matter of politeness, it might be a good idea to just play it safe with “Happy Holidays.” People aren’t psychic. You can’t always predict what’s going to offend someone else. In recent years, I’ve just stuck with “Happy Holidays” and said a silent prayer that I actually make it through those holidays without going bananas.


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