The contemporary western world claims to be the place of tolerance and equality. However, with the rapid development of globalization, the cultural and social compositions of the modern western population have been growing more and more diverse. As a result, tensions around various issues continue to appear. One of such issues occurs right during the holiday season. Specifically, the problem revolves around the way people are expected to greet one another at this merry time. Should we stick to the habitual “Merry Christmas” and stay loyal to the traditions of the majority or embrace a more neutral “Happy Holidays” and show respect to the cultural diversity?
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Due to the increasing level of cultural diversity in the west, the greeting “Merry Christmas” can be offensive to non-Christians. In that way, it would be logical to use “Happy Holidays” as a neutral type of greeting. After all, “Happy Holidays” was designed specifically to include people of all cultural backgrounds in the celebration regardless of their worldviews. This tendency is particularly relevant in the western countries of Europe and the United States that are known for a very high rate of social and cultural diversity.
Moreover, “Happy Holidays” is a greeting inclusive not only for people but also for the actual holidays. To be more precise, wishing someone “Happy Holidays,” one includes all the holidays of the season. Such holidays are multiple.
For example, December alone is the month when representatives of various cultures celebrate their traditional holidays, some of which are the African Kwanzaa, the Mexican Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Japanese Omisoka, the pagan Yule, and the Jewish Hannukah. All of these celebrations occur in the same month as Christmas, Epiphany, and Boxing Day. In that way, instead of separating Christmas and isolating it as the ‘main’ celebration of the month, one could simply wish “Happy Holidays,” sincerely referring to the wide variety of such holidays happening all at the same time.
On the other hand, “Merry Christmas” does not have to be an offensive greeting that should be taken as an attempt to isolate and alienate the representatives of non-Christian cultures. Wishing someone a “Merry Christmas” does not mean that Christmas is the only “real” or relevant holiday of the season. It may mean that it is particularly important for the greeter. As a result, a greeting of this type does not have to be interpreted as an attempt to position Christianity as superior to other worldviews and religions.
Moreover, “Merry Christmas” is, most commonly, the type of greeting that is said and meant in good spirit. Consequently, it should not be taken by non-Christians as something mean or selfish. For instance, people can be unaware of the worldviews of the surrounding individuals and sincerely wish them a “Merry Christmas” without meaning to intimidate, offend, or deny another religion.
To sum up, both types of greetings are equally popular in the modern western world, and it is still debated which one should be used as dominant. “Happy Holidays” is inclusive for every holiday and every person, while “Merry Christmas” is usually meant as a sincere and hearty greeting to anyone regardless of religion. Both forms of greetings are expected to bring joy and happiness.
To reach a compromise, it may be helpful to inquire one another about the preferred greeting and then use it respectively. Also, knowing the loving and joyful nature of winter holidays, it may make sense to take any greetings in good spirit. Understanding and sensitivity can help solve the issue without forcing society to pick just one acceptable way to wish happiness to others.