It’s December: the season of decorated Starbucks cups, shopping sprees, Hallmark movies, and festive music used as a distraction to avoid thinking about finals.
But it’s also the season for the good ol’ seasons greeting debate. People often find themselves tiptoeing around “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays,” with the latter branded a more inclusive phrase. It’s the little instances that seem to tick people off: Merry Coffee on a Starbucks holiday cup, or, on the flip side, fewer than usual “Merry Christmas” Hallmark cards at CVS.
Christians are usually keen on saying “Merry Christmas” because they want to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But in the Bible, Romans 12:10 states, “Honor one another above yourselves.” To honor others’ different beliefs, then, some Christians don’t mind using the “Happy Holidays” greeting.
That being said, there are compelling reasons as to why some might find either greeting offensive.
If you say “Merry Christmas” to someone who celebrates Kwanzaa, for instance, or doesn’t celebrate any religious holiday, they might feel that their beliefs are trivialized and disrespected.
Christmas is already celebrated by a large number of people, so saying “Happy Holidays” to them includes Christmas as one of those holidays.
Moreover, political undertones have been infused into the debate, which complicates the situation. Back in 2016, President Trump spoke to a group of evangelical leaders, and fixated on saying “Merry Christmas” without any consideration for how it affects religious minorities and suggested that Starbucks be boycotted because of that year’s cup design, a minimalist all-red ensemble that didn’t say “Merry Christmas” anywhere.
If you know someone’s a Christian, say “Merry Christmas.” If you know they’re Jewish, wish them a “Happy Hanukkah.” If you don’t know, use whatever greeting you want. No one should take offense over a mere fragment, when the fragment itself isn’t offensive either way. And if it is poorly received, clarify your beliefs and sentiments towards the holiday season to that person. Instead of finding a way to create further division, find a way to celebrate whatever you want to celebrate with whoever you want to surround yourself with. That’s where the magic of the season lies.