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Do You Say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"?

Updated on February 2, 2017
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"Merry Christmas!" Errr.. Ummm.. "Happy Holidays!"

Which do you prefer:

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Every "Holiday Season" I'm again reminded of my yearly debate: Should I say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"? Should I stick to tradition, perhaps blindly, just to buck the trend of PC-ness swallowing the globe? Or maybe I should honor the quite possibly more inclusive salutation; after all, I'm open-minded.

It seems like everyone I ask has their mind made up one way or the other. My problem is that I'm too analytical about everything, generally. As a kid in the candy aisle I could sit there for 10 minutes debating the pluses and minuses of buying each type of candy for that particular situation on that particular day.

Being able to view life from multiple perspectives is great, though at times I've suffered from an inability to finally "decide" anything one way or the other. Can it be a weakness? For sure. A strength? Yup, especially if it inspires me to write another hub.

Which brings us here. This year I've decided to make a short list of pros and cons. Though not particularly religious, I consider myself spiritual. To remain unbiased I'll try to create this list based on what I think other people might feel about the debate. If you think of others, please include them in the Comments section below!

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The Guilt Complex

There seems to be a guilt complex that's cropped up in the last few years surrounding "Merry Christmas," and the theme of "Christmas," generally.

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Tons of department stores in the US have ceased to put up (or allow) Christmas or Christmas tree displays, for example. Sometimes they're allowed if there's a huge uproar (aka boycott) from customers or if the tree displays the politically-correct symbols of other religions.

Many in America still see the country as a "Christian country." It's been the tradition for much of the country's history to celebrate Christmas and other Christian holidays. But with an increasingly "global" world, is this mentality out-of-date? Even if it is though, aren't Christians still entitled to celebrate Christmas however they want? And the same for non-Christians, agnostics, and atheists?

For God's sake (wait, is that too religious?), can't we all just get along without being stupid, small-minded, egocentric jerks?

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Parrotry

Finally, despite the majority of US citizens still being Christian (75%), the majority of the world population is non-Christian. After perusing the pluses and minuses, I'm still not sure which thing to say to people.

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In the past I've said "Happy Holidays" when someone has wished me a "Merry Christmas," and every time I get a surprised look that I didn't return their greeting. On other occasions someone's wished me a "Happy Holiday" and I've said "Merry Christmas," and they were irritated that I was so specific.

So, for now at least, I think I'll just opt for some parrotry. I'm not one of those people who goes out of my way to initiate a holiday greeting in the first place. If someone wants to greet me, I'll just parrot back whatever option they choose. If I was a hardcore Christian this wouldn't be the case, or if I was a hardcore atheist this wouldn't work either--but I'm sort of in the middle.

I'd appreciate any input from YOU on this subject in the comments section below. What do you think? Do you say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays," or perhaps glare at anyone who says either? Your input is interesting and appreciated!

© 2011 Faceless39

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    • Faceless39 profile image
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      Faceless39 2 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Hi Paula / fpherj48 Thanks for your insights and comments. I tend to agree with you 100%. At the time I wrote this there was an anti-Christmas movement sweeping the area I lived in. Although I'm not a Christian per se, I've always celebrated it and it's my favorite holiday and time of year. I admire the thought behind it. I agree with your sentiments, thanks again for airing your views! :)

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      For as far back as I can recall throughout my life, I've said "Merry Christmas." I see no reason to change this. It is the Christmas season for me and my family.

      Prior to and during Christmas, when I exchange greetings, I simply wish people a "Merry Christmas." If they are Jewish or atheists or whatever, we ALL know what Christmas is and who actually celebrates it. What difference does it make whether a person is Christian or not?

      Between Christmas and New Year, I will say, "Happy Holidays," to include them both.......then closer to Jan.1st, it's "Happy New Year," of course......

      IMHO, it is enough to know that we share a special time of year and offer a greeting to one another. Allowing anything to ruin that is just foolishness...............Paula

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      Gail 3 years ago

      I live in Australia and I don't believe, for most Australians, the debate has very much to do with being Christian or non-Christian, and has far more to do with xenophobia and racism. People here find any suggestion of change to any of our traditions as offensive and view it as an attack on our nation and culture. They believe that if any aspect of a tradition (even the language) is changed, that this will mean the ultimate demise of the Australian 'way of life' and that such change will pave the way for religious extremists (Muslim/Islam) to eventually take over this country. I must stress that this is NOT my viewpoint, but one held by many Australians.

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      Marsha 3 years ago

      Christ is the reason for the season and it a day man set aside for Jesus Birthday I feel merry Christmas is the right thing to say if it is about the Birth of Christ think of how you will feel if it was your birthday and people knew it and come to you and say have a good day you would want people to wish you a happy Birthday not say have a good day isn't it the same thing with Christmas we are missing the real reason of this Holiday. think about it

    • Faceless39 profile image
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      Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Thanks for the interesting insights and comments! I said Merry Christmas a lot this year, and it felt good. And I used the parrotry thing to good effect as well. Happy New Year, all!

    • alipuckett profile image

      alipuckett 5 years ago

      This may sound weird, but I'm always a little shocked when someone tells me 'Merry Christmas'. I've lived in Chicago for so long, I've just always said 'Happy Holidays' to avoid any awkwardness.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Faceless39,

      To all your followers and you:

      Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Kwanzaa...as the case may be.

    • profile image

      mksnosense 5 years ago

      Happy Christmas Holidays?

      you can please some of the people none of the time ?

      You can please all of the people some of the time?

      Some of the time I don't give a crap?

      Most of the time I can't stand listening to this nonsense

      All of the time people are nutty?

      People, get a grip?

    • Faceless39 profile image
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      Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Thanks all for the wonderful comments, the Merry Christmases, and the image link!

      I've noticed while out shopping lately that EVERYONE is making a concerted effort to buck the politically-correct trend: in other words, everyone is saying Merry Christmas quite explicitly! It's great. :)

      Merry Christmas all! Drive safe if you're driving, and spread joy and love--as Kiela says, that's what it's all about! Peace.

    • Kiela Starcatcher profile image

      Kiela Starcatcher 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Rated up!

      I tend to follow the parroting rule. Whatever someone says to me, I respond in kind. If I initiate it, it depends on the situation. If I'm giving money to a bell-ringer, it's Merry Christmas. If I'm shopping at Hobby Lobby (well-established as a Christian corporation), it's Merry Christmas. If it's someone via phone or email at work, I wish them a wonderful holiday.

      For the record, I consider myself a "child of the earth" and follow a personal code of respect and honor for mother nature rather than an established religion of any type. But I accept comments of prayers and blessings on my behalf in the comforting, supportive spirit in which they were intended. (Likewise, I say "bless you" when someone sneezes!)

      Christmas for us has always been about family and renewing ties. It's about friendship and love and a desire to share the wealth of happiness. And in the end, isn't that what the season is really about, no matter what your faith?

      Side note: I'm a little surprised at the pie chart. I was under the impression Muslims had the lion's share, but it does appear as though you've done your research. Kudos!!

      Side note: During my hunt for accuracy on that chart, I came across a wonderful image: http://www.religioustolerance.org/comm2000.png I wish we all had that perspective!!

      Merry Solstikwanzukkah! (~_^)

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      genyphr 5 years ago

      I think most of you would think twice about saying Merry Christmas to someone who you know is not Christian... at least I hope you would. The question is, what if you don't know what their religious affiliation is? Not everyone broadcasts it. I realize that those wishing people a Merry Christmas do so with the best of intentions, but please know that to a non-Christian, it is usually received as insensitive. I am not Christian, but I recognize that I live in a largely Christian society. The greeting card section of a Hallmark store is 80% Xmas cards this time of year with a tiny section for other religions. I don't mind this.. but when someone wishes me a Merry Xmas, the first thought that comes to mind is: I am not Christian. The second thought is what do I say back? Replying with a thank you has been received as rude (apparently a Merry Xmas wish is usually reciprocated). I don't feel comfortable wishing someone a Merry Xmas... the same way you would likely feel weird wishing a random person Happy Chanukkah or saying "praise be to Allah" if you're unaware of the religion that they practice.Also, I don't like reciprocating the Merry Xmas wish because I don't want to encourage the people doing so. I have always defaulted to Happy Holidays more as a means of covering my tush and remaining inclusive of everyone. It is ignorant to assume that everyone around you is Christian. It is even more ignorant to assume that a non-Christian must then have some kind of equal gift-giving holiday to celebrate during the month of December. One of my Christian friends was once dumfounded when I explained that I don't celebrate Xmas..as if it was unthinkable. So I know you are going to end up doing what feels right, but this email was just a heads up to those who may not be aware that it is generally ill-advised to wish a stranger a Merry Xmas.. ironically the message being sent will more likely be met with an eye-roll and feelings of annoyance, rather than the intended spread of cheer and joy.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Happy Thanksgving, everyone!

      An update to my previous post:

      HubPages overrode their review software that was blocking my being able to publish my 100 Ways to Say "Merry Christmas" Hub. They published the Hub for me.

      Not one of the 110 phrases, incidentally, is "Happy Holidays."

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      From me personally, to ALL of you who are here on this "comment tree," "HAPPY THANKSGIVING AND A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS with a SAFE, PEACEFUL NEW YEAR!" (Kenneth)

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      I wanted to publish a Hub that listed 110 ways to say "Merry Christmas." The Hub was written in English, but because the Hub contained the list of greetings in other languages, the software that automatically reviews Hubs when the "publish" button was clicked thought that the Hub wasn't written in English and wouldn't publish it.

    • Faceless39 profile image
      Author

      Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      It's great to get all of this positive CHRISTMAS (not xmas!) feedback! I will now proudly announce the season and will no longer consider this a predicament! And yup, I agree SJ; if I know someone definitely celebrates something else, I'll be more specific to their holiday. But overall I tend to agree. Merry Christmas! :)

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Bravo! Cudo's! Atta-girl,SJ! I agree with your comment. I too, LOVE CHRISTmas, but quick to acknowledge the particular holiday montage of the person who doesn't know about or say Merry Christmas. Appreciate you for that. KENNETH AVERY

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Bravo! Cudo's! Atta-girl,SJ! I agree with your comment. I too, LOVE CHRISTmas, but quick to acknowledge the particular holiday montage of the person who doesn't know about or say Merry Christmas. Appreciate you for that. KENNETH AVERY

    • cgreen7090 profile image

      cgreen7090 5 years ago from Tennessee

    • profile image

      SJmorningsun25 5 years ago

      I'm a "Merry Christmas" person through and through. If I know someone celebrates a different holiday--Hanukkah, for instance--I'll reference their holiday specifically, but this is the "Christmas season," after all. And I don't think it has anything to do with America itself--nations all over the world celebrate Christmas. There would be no Christmas season if it weren't for Christ, anyway. There's nothing wrong with acknowledging the reason for the season. Don't let American capitalism and PC-ness kill the true spirit of the holiday!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      "Faceless39, hey, dear friend, YOU are most WELCOME. I just tell it like it is, or type it like it is, but you get my point. I say, "say what's in your heart," for you are protected by The First Amendment..you are simply expresssing yourself. That is one thought. I do hope to hear from you more from time to time for you are a delight to read and know as a friend. Peace! KENNETH

    • Faceless39 profile image
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      Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Kenneth, your comment is the most amazing I've ever received on HubPages--thank you! :) And my aunt has fibromyalgia; are you aware that a veggie diet can help? All the best, and peace!

      Thanks everyone for the amazing feedback! Maybe I'm over-analyzing it all and should just say Merry Christmas! To clarify though, there are other Holidays from other Religions around the same time as Christmas, so that's why I was wondering if I should say Happy Holidays instead. *sigh* I think I'll just do the parroting though, that seems to suit me well. :)

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hi, Faceless39, "Bravo to you for this hub!" GREAT read! voted up and away! LOVED your opinions, facts, research and lay out. You are one top-notch writer with loads of talent. Honest to God! At my old age of 57, with the two incurable diseases I have, Accelerted Fibromyalgia and Neurothopy, I just say to myself, 'let 'em do what they (think) they can to me) and say "Merry Christmas! Love the grimaces and figits of discomfort that gives the Anti-Merry Christmas disciples. Voted up and all across. Hey, may I, with your permission, be both a fan and a follower? I would love that. With My Highest Regards, KENNETH AVERY, from a rural town, Hamilton, in northwest Alabama (that does have a Walmart SuperCenter) that looks a lot like Mayberry, the little town we loved on the Andy Griffith Show. Thanks for everything. Keep up the great work. I got ya' back!

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      Cheryl Simonds 5 years ago from Connecticut

      I find that so many people have so many different ideas and opinions that I ceased trying to decide what should and should not be said and I say what feels right at the time. So, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy Christmas, Enjoy the Holidays.....it all seems to be the same thing to me. Enjoy them all.

    • Brooke Bundy profile image

      Brooke Bundy 5 years ago

      Since I am a Christian ( I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints) I say "Merry Christmas" because to me it is a holiday that centers around Christ. However, I don't get offended by people who prefer to say "Happy Holiday's". Everyone has the right to believe/celebrate/not celebrate as they wish.

      This is a great article!

    • caitmo1 profile image

      caitmo1 5 years ago from Lancashire England

      Wow, if everyone was so quick to apologise the world would be a better place! Apologies accepted - it's easy to misunderstand.

    • krosch profile image

      krosch 5 years ago

      Sorry I misunderstood apparently! Please accept my sincere apologies.

    • caitmo1 profile image

      caitmo1 5 years ago from Lancashire England

      Hello krosch, Where did I say that Jehovas Witnesses didn't follow Jesus? Those that I know are not easily offended but as they don't celebrate Christmas I would just wish them an enjoyable break.

      The most important thing about greeting people is that you are genuine in your good wishes!

    • krosch profile image

      krosch 5 years ago

      Why not to a Jehovah's Witness? They are Jesus followers too.... Just like Mormons sure you can say they are different and not following god or whatever if you like that's your opinion but they certainly follow Jesus like all other Jesus based religions...

      Also I am not too worried about it either way I mostly say Merry Christmas and have never had anyone be offended by me saying it. However I do say Happy Holidays as well especially if someone says Happy Holidays to me first!

    • lobobrandon profile image

      Brandon Lobo 5 years ago

      We say Merry Christmas!! :-)

    • caitmo1 profile image

      caitmo1 5 years ago from Lancashire England

      Here in Lancashire we wouldn't use the term, `Happy Holiday'. The holiday is known as the 'Christmas holiday' and most people would say "Have a lovely Christmas" or "Have a great Christmas". If greeting someone I know, say across the road, maybe I would shout "Merry Christmas".However I wouldn't say that to a Jehovah's Witness that I know, it would be "Enjoy your break"

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

      Some stores tell their employees what to say, others don't. Often, people are told they aren't allowed to say Merry Christmas even when the customer says Merry Christmas first.

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      Angie 5 years ago

      I say both depending who I am talking. I think out of habit I say Merry Christmas. Personally, I don't put much stock in the traditional meaning since the joy of capitalism has taken the faith out it. So they are just words to express what should be a fun holiday.