Is it Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?

Yesterday, a friend posted this on Facebook:

It's not happy holidays, it's merry christmas

I could not disagree more. This seems to be part of a growing (and conservative) movement, which claims saying Happy Holidays is taking the Christmas out of Christmas. In my opinion, this is a completely intolerant and ignorant view and understanding of the reality of a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic world.  Christmas is celebrated by Christians, but not by Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Zen-Taoists and others.

Wishing happy holidays or season’s greetings is a way of acknowledging the various holidays taking place at the end of the year: Christmas, New Year’s, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa.

When you wish someone a Merry Christmas, you are saying you wish him or her a happy day of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

One is inclusive, and one is exclusive. One assumes a belief and one doesn’t.

As a communicator, you have to be careful not to make members of your audience feel excluded.  Clearly, whether you wish Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas depends on who your target audience is.  A church, for example, has a target audience of Christian worshipers and supporters. For a church to wish its audience Merry Christmas would be completely appropriate. For a non-religious institution (like the government or your business) to wish its audience Merry Christmas, would be exclusionary.

With business communications, there’s the additional desire to steer clear of hot topics like religion and politics. Merry Christmas is a religious statement. Happy Holidays is not.

What do you think? Do you wish people Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas or something else?



About Deborah Brody

Deborah Brody writes and edits anything related to marketing communications. Most blog posts are written under the influence of caffeine.

2 thoughts on “Is it Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas?”

  1. Putting up a ‘holiday tree’ is so frustrating – Jews don’t have a ‘Chanukah tree’! So just call it what it is – a Christmas tree! And this week they were singing ‘holiday music’ in my office cafeteria – but the songs were all ‘oh christmas tree’ etc – just call it what it is and quit pretending like saying ‘holiday’ is inclusive of all religions (since only 2 religions actually have holidays this time of year, OK 3 with pagens) unless in August you are going to say ‘Happy Holidays’ to the Muslims, or basically every month except November & December & January saying ‘Happy Holidays’ to the hindus ( and have office ‘holiday parties’ in other months too. Calling it a ‘holiday party’ or wishing ‘happy holidays’ can be construed as saying these are the only holidays that exist and minimizing the recognition of religions that don’t celebrate holidays at this time of the year. So…..Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah!

  2. Thanks for your comments. My post said clearly that this is about BUSINESS greetings. Of course there is no Hanukkah tree, which is why you call it a Christmas tree, and no one is quibbling with that. Although you are correct that there are only a couple holidays at the end of the year, by wishing Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas you are acknowledging diversity of practice and belief, while still being thoughtful.

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