Each December, it is impossible to go to any outing without hearing, “Merry Christmas,” a common greeting and farewell for those who celebrate the Christian holiday. While I am actively Christain and I celebrate Christain holidays each year, I think it is time we become more sensitive to those around us and begin saying, “Happy holidays,'' instead.
By no means is this a persuasive essay asking all Christians to give up their religion and hide their celebrations this year. Rather, I am asking people to think about the people around them. According to a random sample of over 1000 adults from Gallup, 71% of Americans said they celebrated Christmas in 2019. This leaves around 29% of Americans who don’t celebrate anything or they celebrate other holidays, such as Kwanza, Hanukkah, and some years Eid Al- Fitr or Eid -Al Adha. Though the majority of Americans are celebrating Christmas, there are plenty of people who are not Christain or aren’t celebrating the Christain holiday.
Insisting on saying, “Merry Christmas,” in public settings sets the precedent that Christmas is the only holiday during the winter months and that there is no room for other holidays. Similarly, if every Jewish American began saying, “Happy Hanukkah,” in public settings, others would feel left out in their celebrations. Being respectful of other religions is important for celebrating the diversity that exists within our American culture. It is amazing to me that so many religions exist at the same time with different traditions, celebrations, and beliefs. Respecting the differences in these religions makes our community strong and makes holidays more rewarding with less judgment.
Overall, do what feels most comfortable to you. When around family or friends, it is completely appropriate to say tell them to have a merry Christmas. Even when around friends who celebrate something different, "Merry Christmas," can be appropriate, but be ready to be told to have a happy Hanukkah or Kwanza. If you’re coming from a place of respect and care, say whatever you want, I would be so excited to know you care for me. Personally, when in public, I always say, "Happy holidays," to make sure I never leave anybody out.
This holiday season, consider wishing your coworkers, baristas, and cashiers happy holidays, to let them know you care that they have a great winter, regardless of what they celebrate.