Every December, Americans engage in a rhetorical debate about whether or not people should greet each other with “Merry Christmas” or the all-inclusive “Happy Holidays”– a debate that is usually framed around “War on Christmas.”
Earlier this month, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly argued that the modern war on Christmas began “10 years ago when creeping secularism and pressure from groups like ACLU began attacking the Christmas holiday. They demanded the word Christmas be removed from advertising and public displays.”
America is more culturally and religiously diverse than ever before and is still trying to balance the faith of the majority with the feelings of the minority. Even though majority of Americans identify as Christian– 83 percent according to an ABCNEWS/Beliefnet poll taken in July – there is still a case to be made that removing the word “Christmas” from public displays is not necessarily an act of “War on Christmas.”
There are several holidays in December including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Winter Solstice. So it is not unreasonable that those who are not Christians feel offended when greeted with Merry Christmas. By the same token, it is also true that some Christians get outraged when greeted with Happy Holidays. Just this week in Arizona, a Salvation Army worker was punched for saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, and last week, Texas passed a bipartisan legislation to ensure that wishing people a “Merry Christmas” is protected by law in Texas public schools.
The American public generally prefers Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays. Last December, the Pew Research Center asked Americans whether they prefer stores to greet their customers by saying “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays.” The survey revealed that 57 percent of Americans prefer “Merry Christmas” and 27 percent picked “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” But when “it doesn’t matter” is added as an option, 46 percent say it doesn’t matter, 42 percent say they prefer “Merry Christmas,” and 12 percent prefer “Happy Holidays.” These results have not changed since 2005 according to Pew.
Republicans and Democrats are also split on the question. 63 percent of Republicans prefer “Merry Christmas” compared to 5 percent who choose “Happy Holidays” and 32 percent who say it doesn’t matter. Among Democrats, only 28 percent prefer the Christmas greeting but 57 percent say it doesn’t matter.
So for the sake of getting along with everyone this holiday season, if you know someone is Christian, wish them Merry Christmas. If they are Jewish, say Happy Hanukkah. If they celebrate Kwanzaa, wish them a joyous Kwanzaa, etc. But if you don’t know their religion, you can say Happy Holidays but keep in mind that you may still get punched if you happen to be a Salvation Army worker in Arizona.
[Image via ABC News]