Tis that time of year again, when people start thinking about peace and goodwill and when some people start kvetching about the term “Happy Holidays”.
So, I’ve compiled some simple rules to help you circumvent the arguments:
- First, remember that there are lots of holidays at the end of the year, especially if you live in the melting pot of the US. From Thanksgiving all the way to New Year’s Day, there’s a holiday or holiday season almost every week. The term “Happy Holidays” covers much more than the simple “Merry Christmas” you get, for example, in Britain.
- If you know which holiday someone is celebrating, be specific, ‘Happy Hannukah’, “Merry Christmas”, “Have a Beltin’ Hogmanay”…
- If it is Christmas Day, wish everyone a Merry Christmas. What? Only Christians get to be merry on December 25?
- If sending greetings cards and you don’t know which holiday (if any) the recipient celebrates, feel free to send Happy Holidays cards. I don’t think you’re going to make the little baby Jesus cry by sending a non-specific message wishing someone happiness this season. In fact, I think he might clap his pudgy little hands and say, ‘Well done! Someone got the point! Love for all! Goo-goo-gah-gah!”
- The next time someone tells you that the “X” in “Xmas” is someone “crossing out Christ”, refer them to their copy of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (pub. circa 1100 AD), where they can look up the first use of the term Xres mæsse for “Christmas”. You might have to wait for a bit while they locate their copy, so you could, instead point them to the Online Eymology Dictionary’s entry that explains the “Xr” comes from the first letter of “Christos” in Greek.
- If all else fails, take your lead from the person you’re talking to. If your co-conversationalist wishes you “Happy Holidays”, do the same. However, if your cashier is wearing blinking Christmas trees in her ears, has a Santa knitted into her sweater and has constructed a nativity scene out of Sour Patch kids in her bagging area, feel free to issue a smart “Merry Christmas to ya” as you take your change.
Now get out there and spread some cheer!