Every year on Christmas Day, my telephone rings, and a devout Muslim Pakistani is on the other end wishing me a Merry Christmas. He knows no Christians in Pakistan, and has never been in a predominantly Christian country on Christmas Day, but he understands that this day is the holiday of all holidays for us. My Muslim brother-in-law, an Egyptian immigrant, exclaims “Merry Christmas!” when he joins us for presents, games, and eggnog. My Jewish friends take part in our Secret Santa exchanges. Likewise, I wish my other-denominational friends wishes on their holidays throughout the year: Happy Eid! Happy Hanukkah! I don’t know a single Muslim or Jew who has taken offense to my celebrating Christmas.
Right before Christmas, I tend to break out my red dress and white tights. I usually throw on a green scarf. I don’t wear a Merry Christmas pin. I don’t wear Jesus earrings. I just throw on the festive colors of the season. I’m a walking Starbuck’s cup. Simplicity in color design is magic itself, not a liberal idea.
I also find myself saying Happy Holidays a lot. Not because I’m making a statement of political correctness or even because I’m trying to be ultra-inclusive. It’s just a matter of conciseness. New Year’s Eve is only one week after Christmas, and saying, “Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!” is three syllables longer (& in the printing world, 17 characters, if you include punctuation). Really, I’m just acknowledging that there are a lot of holidays going on right now and I don’t want to list them all.
My neighbor down the road has a sign up that says “Keep the Christ in Christmas–MERRY CHRISTMAS, NOT HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” If you are a devout Christian, then by all means, you should keep the Christ in Christmas–but remember, the most important place to keep Christ’s spirit is in your heart, in your home, in your family, and in your day to day acts of kindness. Whether Walmart or Starbucks keeps Christ is really not nearly as important. Christ celebrated Passover and Hanukkah and was probably born in April, after all, so the day is about how you embody his work of charity and forgiveness. I am not a practicing Christian, but I’m certain raging against a Starbuck’s cup or a Walmart worker is not very Christlike.
In the United States, people have been saying Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings since the 19th century without any intent to politically brainwash (below are two ads from 1863 in Philadelphia and 1890 in Duluth, respectively).
In fact, in a country where we wish each other a “Happy Friday!” in passing and deluge people’s Facebook pages with “Happy Birthday” greetings and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day even if we aren’t Irish, I would say that really, we are just a conglomerate of people who like to celebrate all holidays. Holidays are fun, after all, and so in a month filled with chocolate, champagne, dreidels, lights, trees, presents, ceremony, and family, it’s okay to wish anybody anything you’d like–Happy Hanukkah. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. Season’s Greetings. Nobody is offended by your celebrations of faith.
Happy Holidays. All of them.
Angie Miller is an educator, freelance writer, traveller, and TED speaker from New Hampshire. You can follow her on Twitter @angieinlibrary.