Can I Say Happy Holidays?

Can I Say Happy Holidays?

Lauren PesinWednesday,23 December 2015

Religious and cultural celebrations are-a-plenty in the month of December. Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican); St. Lucia Day (Swedish); Hanukkah (Jewish); Christmas Day (Christian); Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish); Kwanzaa (African American); and Yule (Pagan) Winter Solstice are just a few holidays that fall in the twelfth month.  It’s hard to keep them straight and remember who believes what. Sometimes it’s even difficult to know what to say.

I think most of us agree enforcing the practice of or focus on a specific religious tradition over another (such as the Christian celebration of the birth of Christ or the Jewish Festival of Lights) in a public school or professional environment is not appropriate.  Introducing different cultures and celebrations as a learning experience in diversity are educational. Expecting kids to practice religion (unless it’s a religious school) is a different story (hello, separation of church and state).

Although some more disgruntled folk, take fault in “the Santa Lie” and all its trimmings, most people are okay with Santa, elves, snowmen, snowflakes, reindeer, jingle bells, and Rudolph. Also, we (the people) are pretty thoughtful this time of year. Society tries to be mindful by using impartial terms for good wishes, including “Happy Holidays!” and “Season Greetings!” My question then, with the obvious exceptions of church, temple, or a coven, “When is it okay to say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Kwanzaa?” “Furthermore, “When can I say Happy Holidays?”

The phrase, “Happy Holiday,” is a bit more inclusive, but it’s still religious. Since most people in the U.S. are religious, “Happy Holidays!” is probably the most likely to apply.

At a local organic market today, a cashier being mindful said, “If you celebrate, Happy Holidays!”  In a different store, a customer wished “Happy Holidays” to the store clerk.  The clerk responded, “No, I don’t like happy holidays.  It’s Christmas!”  I wonder how he feels about the even less religious, “Season Greetings” or “Winter Wishes”? Those seem like neutral and yet well-intended salutations.  You can’t ever please the extraordinarily Scrooge-ey.

Typically, you can’t tell who celebrates what.  Not all white people in the U.S. celebrate Christmas; not all black people celebrate Kwanzaa; not all female hippies are witches; not everyone celebrates a holiday.

There may be visual clues, such as a ginormous, gold, crucifix pendant, a “What Would Jesus Do” bracelet or a “put Christ back in Christmas” bumper sticker. Then, it’s probably safe to say “Merry Christmas!” Otherwise, you’re taking a chance with that season greeting. Maybe, you happen by a person with a yarmulke or a tzitzit, which is equivalent to a flashing neon sign, “I’m Jewish.”  Then, it’s okay to say, “Happy Hanukkah!” Maybe, a Wiccan pentagram necklace faces your direction, in which case a “Merry Yule!” is just.

There are so many ways we can offend and exclude the general populace throughout the year.  During these precious days filled with merriment and good tidings, perhaps a little common sense is in order. If you slip up with an inappropriate holiday greeting or feel especially strong about saying Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, or Merry Yule, “just do it!” It’s your party.  It’s your holiday.

Whatever greeting you choose, I wish you a very merry…

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Image Credit: Aaron Jacobs on Flickr

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