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Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays

by Christy Walters and Michelle Boring

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. It’s the great debate. What do you say to customers, classmates, friends, or family when you’re wishing them greetings over the next month?

 Merry Christmas – Christy Walters

Is it rude to say Merry Christmas to someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas? In a world where everyone tries so hard to be inclusive and politically correct, it might seem that way, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s not rude to wish someone Merry Christmas.

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A fireworks light display at Overly’s County Christmas, at Westmoreland Fairgrounds in Greensburg.

I should make my point clear. It is not rude to say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Kwanza to someone, depending on which holiday you celebrate. None of these statements are offensive. Just because you can’t guarantee the person to whom you are sending greetings celebrates the same holiday as you, that doesn’t mean you should change your wording or worse, stop sending greetings all together.

Take Christmas cards for example. They’re called Christmas cards yet the messages inside rarely contain the words “Merry Christmas.” This is something I don’t understand. They’re called Christmas cards and they are sent out for Christmas, so why must we wish people “Happy Holidays” with Christmas cards. I’ve never seen a Hanukkah or Kwanza card, but the same rules apply. If you send someone a Hanukkah card, you’re wishing that person a Happy Hanukkah, not Happy Holidays.

Personally, I would rather have someone tell me Happy Hanukkah than not send well wishes my way at all. The important thing to remember here is that people wish each other Merry Christmas not out of spite or bigotry but out of kindness. If someone says Merry Christmas to you, they’re not saying it because they think other holidays are less important: it’s because they celebrate Christmas.

Instead of worrying about if your greeting is going to offend someone, just say what you want. It’s more important to be nice and send good wishes to people than it is to overthink things. If someone gets offended, that’s on him or her, especially if you’re just trying to do something kind.


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The carousel light display at Overly’s County Christmas, at Westmoreland Fairgrounds in Greensburg.


Happy Holidays – Michelle Boring

I’ve worked retail over the holidays for six years now, and the most important thing I’ve learned is that people get offended easily and often. I work at a card shop, so I often deal with the major holidays in the form of cards and gifts.

I usually base what I say to people off a purchase, but sometimes people surprise me. If you wish people a Happy Valentine’s Day, they might get mad because they’re single. So is the teddy bear for your dog? During Easter, people get mad because they aren’t religious. I see you’ve decided to buy this hunk of chocolate purely because of its egg shape? Halloween offends people because it’s a dark holiday. But you have no problems wearing that Twilight shirt out in public? The list goes on. It seems everyone has a grievance for some kind of holiday, but the worst is the cluster of celebrations in December.

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“Peace on Earth” at Overly’s County Christmas, at Westmoreland Fairgrounds in Greensburg.

I say Happy Christmas because it makes me feel British. I’m only kidding, well a little. I say Happy Christmas because I was raised celebrating Christmas. We put up a Christmas tree, and on Christmas Eve, we have a traditional Slovak meal that has been passed down in my family for generations. We go to church, and on Christmas Day, my family celebrates with food, presents, and music.

When I’m shopping or when I’m wishing friends, family, or strangers a good holiday, I say Happy Christmas. I say it because it’s what I celebrate. I expect the same from everyone else. Wish me what you celebrate. Wish me what you believe. I’ve had people wish me a Happy Hanukkah, and I’ve never been offended by it. In all honesty, I felt honored to be included in their celebration.

At work though, I say Happy Holidays unless I’ve already been wished a Merry Christmas. My employers have never told me to say one or the other, but I’ve always been taught to separate my personal life from work. I think it’s an important lesson. While I want to wish customers a Happy Christmas, I understand that they don’t all celebrate the same. I understand that maybe it’s hard to celebrate Hanukkah or Kwanza in an area so dominated by Christmas. Maybe people don’t want Christmas shoved in their faces everywhere. I celebrate Christmas, and I don’t want that.

Happy Holidays is a safe way to go. It’s easier to wish the masses a Happy Holiday than trying to decipher if a Merry Christmas will offend them.

But the debate seems to be growing, even to the point that Happy Holidays offends people now. Can you believe that? Someone offended by Happy Holidays? How stupid. How petty. I’ve been lectured more than once about saying Happy Holidays. People believe that if you take Christmas out of the sentiment, then the meaning behind the holiday goes away. I disagree, and even so, don’t you think we are already there? Christmas sometimes seems like nothing more than a commercialized, greedy, gift-buying extravaganza.

Do me a favor this season, wish people what you celebrate. Don’t be offended if someone wishes you a Happy Holiday or a sentiment that’s not what you personally believe. Let’s fill this season with a little more cheer and happiness. Oh, and be nice to the retail workers. They are overworked and underpaid this time of year. Plus, they really are trying their best to help you, even if you think the stock room is some form of Narnia.

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