Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas – What I think about that


Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas. Why is this even an adversarial thing? WHY?

I’m a Christian. I celebrate Christmas — although in the interest of full disclosure, it’s been awhile since I’ve been to church. I believe Jesus is the reason for the season and all that stuff. I also believe Christmas is a time to relax, reflect, and enjoy. I believe in Santa, magic reindeer, and eating lots of cookies and tamales. I love Christmas lights and Christmas music and Christmas movies, and Christmas trivia. 

I love Christmas so much I even gave the holiday its own landing page on my blog.

Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas. What I Think About This Great Debate

Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays shouldn’t even been a thing that we argue about. This season is supposed to be about joy and good cheer. There are so many things to divide us right now. Just pick one. How we greet each other in the month of December shouldn’t be something we have to take sides on. 


I know people believe different things and celebrate differently. Most of my friends celebrate Christmas, although I have some friends who celebrate Hanukkah. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice, but I think celebrations in general are good things and I try to teach my kids that people celebrate different things this time of year. Christmas happens to be our thing. If you don’t celebrate something I guess that’s your choice – and your loss.

So here’s my Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas Story:

Two years ago, my family and I went to the holiday parade in our small town. The local feed store and the city council people drove their “floats” by and threw candy at the kids. There were Girl Scouts, churches, and other community organizations. We saw our vet and our dentist. We saw the mayor, various city council people and political hopefuls wearing Santa hats waving and smiling. It was fun and a little bit hokey.

A flatbed of kids waving, smiling, and shouting “Happy Holidays” rolled past. I think they were one of the scouting groups but I’m not sure. We smiled and waved back. I mean … they were throwing mini Butterfinger bars. Of course we smiled and waved. Everything was merry and bright and all that good stuff.

Then the guy standing next to me on the street shouted “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”

Nothing wrong with that, you might think, except people don’t usually say “Merry Christmas” in the same tone they’d use to say “GET OFF MY LAWN” or “THERE’S AN INSECT IN MY SOUP.”

I in the direction of the voice and saw a thirtyish man scowling like someone peed in his Cheerios, shaking his head and muttering under his breath, “Why the heck are people saying ‘Happy Holidays’? What’s wrong with ‘Merry Christmas’?” His whole demeanor was…grinchy. 

Nothing is wrong with “Merry Christmas.” Nothing is wrong with “Happy Holidays,” “Season’s Greetings,” “Joyous Yuletide,” or whatever else people might say to each other in December. Nothing is wrong with any of those things.

“Happy Holidays” means “Have a Happy Flipping Holiday.” Don’t read into it. Smile and nod. Smile and wave. Try saying “Thanks!” or even “Hey, you too!” Why does this have to be adversarial? Don’t be that guy.

Some people are determined to be unhappy. If that’s you then find something legit to be unhappy about. This ain’t it. 

And, if you feel the need to “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas,” go right ahead but try not to sound like a jerk when doing it, m’kay?  That’s not festive or happy.

Don’t make your holiday greeting a correction or a dig. That’s rude. Be thankful someone cared enough to greet you at all. What about all the people who you see in passing who say nothing to you or look away to avoid contact. Don’t waste that little moment of good cheer being a petulant killjoy. 

I didn’t engage with this guy at the parade. I looked away, edged a little further down the sidewalk, and focused on my kids who were having a great time. I didn’t encourage him to expand on his dislike of “Happy Holidays,” but if I did, I bet he would say something like, “We need to keep Christ in Christmas.” Sure, that’s a little bit of speculation on my part but I’d bet money on it being true.

My Takeaway – Find Something Else to Complain About. Not hard.

I do believe “Jesus is the reason for the season.”  I also get that not everyone believes that, although I don’t think wishing someone a Merry Christmas is an attempt to impose what I believe on someone else.

But I do have this to say:

If you’re an outraged Christian who is correcting “Happy Holidays” – either in your outside voice or in your head – in the name of your faith, ask yourself if Jesus would be acting like that. Pretty sure He would graciously receive “Happy Holidays” and not get twisted about a lack of mention. 

If you want to complain about something this time of year, complain about the crazy parking lot at the mall or the fact that the presents you ordered in late October still haven’t shipped. Or complain about some of the real stuff that’s going on in the world, like politics or COVID. 

Don’t complain about the way someone wishes you happiness. 

Smile, nod, and say, “You too.” Smile. And. Nod.

It’s not that difficult.



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