Issue Report: Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays

Should businesses, governments, and orgs say "merry Christmas" or "happy holidays"?

Certain people of English-speaking countries have said “Merry Christmas” to each other around the time of Christmas in December. This tradition has been amplified in the last century. Now within the services and retail businesses as well as in government, many have succesfully argued that the term should be changed to “Happy Holidays”, because such a statement expresses a religiously neutral perspective and is an inclusive term. The controversy has become particularly prominent in larger retail stores such as Wal-Mart, which have a prominent place in the present-buying surrounding Christmas. Wal-Mart actually began encouraging the use of the term “happy holidays” in place of “Merry Christmas” in 2004 and 2005. This move was met by significant opposition, causing Wal-Mart to change course in 2006 and subsequent years, where it began using the term “Merry Christmas” once again. In 2009, in a similar instance, Best Buy changed its policy, defining “happy holidays” as their preferred form of seasons greetings. And for the first time ever, in 2009, the White House called their “Christmas tree” a “holiday tree.” These and other moves by companies and governments at different levels have stimulated a major debate. Should these companies, organizations, and governments have policies favoring the use of “merry Christmas” or “happy holidays.”[1]

Spirit: Should "merry Christmas" be taken in good spirit?

"Merry Christmas" should be taken in good spirit

Frydman-Kohl, a rabbi in a large conservative synagogue in the United States, said in 2002: “If someone doesn’t know I’m Jewish and says `Merry Christmas’ to me, it’s not time for a lesson on how one might greet people. It’s time to accept it in a good spirit and wish someone well. I don’t want to be the Grinch who stole Christmas.”[2]

Cheering "merry Christmas" is not cheering against non-Christians

Ross Day. "I'll say it: Merry Christmas." Keizer Times. December 17, 2009

“why stop at Christmas? In America, Super Bowl Sunday has become something of a holiday. However, by calling that day ‘Super Bowl Sunday,’ aren’t we recognizing and supporting fans of professional American football and risking offending fans of college football, high school football and even fans of soccer (which is called football outside of the United States)? I propose we simply refer to Super Bowl Sunday as ‘football Sunday,’ just to be politically correct.”

"Merry Christmas" doesn't usually offend non-Christians

Don Feder. "The Jewish Case for 'Merry Christmas'" Front Page Magazine. December 7th, 2006

“The Best Buy website offers ‘unique gifts for the season.’ According to Liberty Counsel (a Christian legal action group), a company spokesman claims the use of the word ‘Christmas’ is disrespectful. Disrespectful to who? The 5% of the American people who don’t celebrate Christmas? But how many of them actually care? (For years, people said ‘Merry Christmas’ to me, without inflicting severe emotional harm.) Would it be disrespectful for a clerk in Tel Aviv to wish someone a ‘Happy Hanukkah’?”

"Merry Christmas" makes people happier than "happy holidays"

Christmas shopper Brooke Ring of Virginia said in December of 2009: “It really puts a smile on my face to hear people say Merry Christmas maybe instead of Happy Holidays or Seasons’ Greetings or something of that nature.”[3]

General statements in favor of saying merry Christmas

"Happy holidays" covers all the holidays of the season

Hanukkah and sometimes Eid al Fitr fall in the same period as Christmas. Hanukkah as a Holiday predates the Christmas holiday by almost 200 years [4] as it dates from the 1st Century AD. Christmas was forbidden by the early Christian Church and created a Holiday coinciding with the pagan Feast of Sol Invictus by the Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, in the 4th century AD. A significant portion of the US population, over 20%, are non-christian.

"Merry Christmas only" camp is over zealous

"Say 'Merry Christmas' -- or else! 'MC-only' zealots insist." USA Today, Faith and Reason. November 27th, 2009

“We’re heading for December when zealous guardians of the ‘Say-‘Merry Christmas’-or-you’ll-be-sorry’ movement will be in their glory, defending Christianity from a fictional ‘War on Christmas.’ Among the early blasts of ‘MC-Only’ wrath for 2009, is one directed at Best Buy. The electronics superstores, in a horrifying burst of inclusivity, printed Happy Eid Al-Adha’ in their Thanksgiving Day sale circular. This year, the Eid dates, which shift with the lunar calendar followed by Islam, coincide with the Christmas and Hanukkah shopping stampede. […] Best Buy is standing by these best wishes despite a drubbing from the American Family Association, which treats ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Season’s Greetings’ with the outrage normally reserved for profanity, flag burning or flogging puppies.”

"Merry Christmas" can offend non-Christians.

Organizations and businesses that have a policy of saying “merry Christmas” risk being seen as favoring Christians. A non-Christian that receives the message “merry Christmas” could certainly, therefore, feel their faith is being excluded or just under-considered, and could thus react very negatively to the message. Subsequently, while “merry Christmas” certainly makes Christians happy, it carries the risk of offending non-Christians. No matter what the intended “spirit” of “merry Christmas”, this risk is real for non-Christians. “Happy holidays”, in so-far as it is less likely to offend, is therefore in better keeping with the Christmas spirit.

Inclusiveness: Is "merry Christmas" inclusive enough?

Existing laws check prejudiced use of "merry Christmas"

Bill Allin. "Is "Merry Christmas!" Politically Incorrect?"

“The political correctness movement was ostensibly an uprising of sensible and sensitive people against those who would offend minorities. On the surface this sounds acceptable. However, we have laws that make real prejudice and racism indictable offences.”

Merry Christmas is acceptable in multi-cultural society

Leslie Scrivener. "The case for Merry Christmas." December 24, 2002

“Being greeted with Merry Christmas doesn’t distress Ph.D. student Cheshmak Farhoumand-Sims, who is Baha’i, either. ‘I’m not offended when someone says `Merry Christmas.’ I say `Merry Christmas’ back. I just recognize we’re living in a multicultural society that’s predominately Christian.'”

"Happy holidays" is inclusive vs exclusive "merry Christmas".

The term “Happy Holidays” is inclusive of “Merry Christmas” and Christians. However “Merry Christmas” does not include other holidays. So the effort to “keep Christ in Christmas” is actually an effort to “Keep non-Christians out of Christmas.”

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