By Michael Willson
December is the most stressful time of the year. There are finals and holiday events, and you have to try really hard not to offend anyone. December means something different for everyone. For some it means Christmas, for others Hanukkah, and for some it means just getting a break from work and school.
You need to be very careful with what you say at this time in the year. If you say “Merry Christmas,” then you are accused of pushing Christianity on people. If you say “Happy Holidays,” then you are accused of declaring a war on Christmas. December is, without a doubt, the most controversial time of the year.
It is important to recognize diversity. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and that’s OK. I believe that if you know the person you are talking to does not celebrate Christmas, or if you do not know what they celebrate, then you should say “Happy Holidays.” Better yet, if it’s during Hanukkah and you know they are Jewish, you should say “Happy Hanukkah.” That way, you are showing that you recognize and care about their holiday. You should also say “Happy Holidays” if you are talking to a group of people in which not everyone is Christian. By saying “Happy Holidays,” you are recognizing all of the December holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.
A lot of Christians take offense at the term “Happy Holidays.” They feel that it is attacking Christmas. With all due respect, I feel that they are totally overthinking it. Nothing about the term “Happy Holidays” is in any way attacking Christmas. They need to realize that not everyone celebrates Christmas and they should not take offense at that. If you are a Christian and someone tells you “Happy Holidays,” you should smile and say, “Thank you, you too.” You can interpret it as “Merry Christmas,” if you want to.
That being said, I will agree that it does not make sense to say “Happy Holidays” if you know you are talking to a Christian. I would expect a message from a church to say “Merry Christmas.” If you go to church, then the odds are that you are Christian, which means you celebrate Christmas. I do not think it is right for a non-Christian to take offence when a church says “Merry Christmas.” It is important to note that Christmas is indeed a religious holiday. A lot of non-Christians celebrate the commercial aspect of Christmas, which is perfectly fine, but they should still recognize that it was originally a Christian holiday. I don’t think it’s right to edit “A Charlie Brown Christmas” to make it politically correct, and I don’t think it’s right to tell a family not to have a nativity scene on their front lawn.
I believe that the best thing to do in December is to recognize all holidays. Yes, that is possible. We can do that here at Virginia Wesleyan. We can have a Christmas tree behind Clarke Hall and have a menorah set up in Batten. We can listen to Christmas music, both sacred and secular, as well as Hanukkah and winter songs. Each holiday is special and unique in its own way. They all deserve the utmost respect and dignity. So if someone tells me “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” or even “Happy Hanukkah,” I will smile and say, “Thank you, you too.”