The employee behind the register hands me my grocery bags and receipt and says, “Thanks a bunch. Merry Christmas!”
I smile in return. “Merry Christmas to you, too,” I reply.
Though I don’t actually celebrate Christmas, I always wish people a Merry Christmas when they wish me one. It seems only polite, and I do hope they enjoy the holiday. Though it’s technically not my holiday, I’m not the least bit bothered or offended by someone saying “Merry Christmas” to me. I know the intention is kind and the sentiment is lovely.
What I do find tiresome is the idea that saying, “Happy Holidays,” instead is somehow offensive, and that its use represents a “war on Christmas” rather than the reality that we live in a diverse society where people celebrate different things. That seems ridiculously narrow-minded to me.
It doesn’t help that our president-elect, who has clearly stated that he wants to be a leader for all Americans, has repeatedly blasted the use of “Happy Holidays” and pledged that “Merry Christmas” will be heard in every store once he’s president.
Yes, he said that. More than once.
Last year on the campaign trail, he said, “I’m a good Christian, remember that. And I told you about Christmas, and I guarantee, if I become president, we’re gonna be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at every store […] every store, every store. The ‘Happy Holiday’ you can leave that over in the corner.”
Again, in this video, he said, “You don’t see ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore, right? Because it’s not politically correct. Guess what, folks, when I win, if I win, when I win, whatever — I will tell you, we’re gonna all be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
And lest we think he’s not really being serious, in this this audio interview, after claiming that Christians are having their power taken away, Mr. Trump says, “One of the things I always say, and I say it light-heartedly, but I mean it — it’s actually not supposed to be so light-hearted […] is we are going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again. Because you go into these stores, and you don’t see anything having to do with Christmas. And it’s disgraceful, frankly, as far as I’m concerned.”
So disgraceful, in fact, that he said he tells his wife not to go to stores with signs that say, “Happy Holidays.”
I’m sorry, what?
First of all, am I the only one who still sees Christmas trees and Christmas wreaths and Christmas cookies and hears Christmas carols everywhere? No one is stopping anyone from wishing one another a “Merry Christmas,” simply because some businesses choose to put up signs that say “Happy Holidays” and schools call their vacations “Winter Break” instead of “Christmas Break.” Christmas is not in danger of disappearing. You know it, I know it, everybody knows it (if they are willing to be honest).
But more to the point, please imagine for a moment that Bernie Sanders — who is Jewish — had won the presidency. Imagine that all along the campaign trail he had talked about how he really loves Hanukkah, and how it’s a shame that people say “Happy Holidays” and that he really wants to hear “Happy Hanukkah” instead. Then imagine he repeatedly said that, if he becomes president, all stores are going to be saying, “Happy Hanukkah.” Every store…every store…every store.
Doesn’t that strike you as a little (or a lot) odd and inappropriate? Why is it less odd and inappropriate when it comes from a Christian?
Sure, Christmas is a federal holiday, and our country’s religious majority is Christian. But about one-third of Americans are not. And depending on the year, there can be official religious holidays that fall between Thanksgiving and the New Year for Bahá’ís, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Pagans, and Zoroastrians, and I’d be willing to bet more that I’ve never heard of.
That’s why people say “Happy Holidays.” I guarantee it’s not part of some conspiracy to destroy Christianity or Christmas. It’s a recognition that we live in a diverse nation and a nice way to include everyone’s faith traditions in our holiday greetings.
Let me be clear, because I don’t want people to misunderstand what I’m saying here, the problem is not with anyone saying, “Merry Christmas.” As I said, even as someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, I’m not bothered by that in the least. The problem is with demanding that people say “Merry Christmas,” and getting offended when people offer the more inclusive “Happy Holidays.” Doesn’t that complaint seem a little…umm…precious snowflakey?
I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would be irked by “Happy Holidays” if it is offered in goodwill. Why would you complain about an all-inclusive phrase that covers everyone’s traditions? Why insist that the holiday you celebrate be specifically acknowledged?
The America I know and love embraces all of its citizens and acknowledges differing belief systems. Please tell me we aren’t going to start backing away from that deeply held value simply because our elected leader has a beef with an inclusive greeting.
May your holiday season be filled with joy and peace, everyone, whatever and however you celebrate.