With the divisive election season behind us and the joyous holiday season dawning, I would like to elucidate on a subject that has become needlessly divisive in recent years. Happy Holidays!
What’s operating in the seemingly garrulous shift from wishing all who crossed one’s path a “Merry Christmas!” to “Happy Holidays!” isn’t some anti-Christian pogrom but is merely a more inclusive phrase that businesses have asked and in some cases required their employees to adopt while working. No one has told the general public that they cannot say “Merry Christmas!”
Humans have for tens of thousands of years celebrated various holidays, rituals, acknowledgements, etc… marking the Winter Solstice and functioning as a societal touch point that distributes both sustenance and and psychological/spiritual cheer at the time when resources are becoming most scarce. Because humanity is less often living in homogeneous communities, we recently acquired a need for a salutation that easily conveys the same meaning but for many different cultural and religious Red Letter Days, and allows us to avoid the mental collating of faces, ethnicities, religions, secular expressions, etc… hoping against hope that our reconnoitering calculus, let alone our pronunciation, are not in error when wishing others anything from “Joyous Yule!” to our Pagan friends to “Happy Diwali!” to our Hindu friends, and everyone in between. Reasonable people would never or only very rarely find offence in being given a holiday greeting other than the one significant to them personally, and frankly, I know a lot of prickly people whom one could imagine would find it necessary to correct such an infraction, yet I am confident in assessing that none ever have. Businesses tend to be the drivers of these multicultural evolutionary forces and often provide a script for the encounter between the public and themselves that employees must adhere to which is where some misconceptions concerning this perceived, yet non-existent taboo status of saying “Merry Christmas!” likely may have precipitated. In a society that values the individual as the basic component of civilization, “Happy Holidays!” is an amazingly succinct and versatile phrase, replete with a mnemonic, readily elocuted assonance that is a testament to the human abilities of cognition and empathy to make, even brief, passing encounters between human strangers, simultaneously more personable and more universally sharable . Since I was in grade school part of my shtick has been to greet and bid farewell to people with “Merry Christmas!” on any given day of the year and although this always solicits laughter and grins after an awkward but humorous confusion, I have come to an understanding of the dynamic effect of wishing virtually everyone “Merry Christmas!” during the busy Winter Solstice cycle. It is no different than if one were to, address everyone: stranger; acquaintance; friend alike as Steven, instead of using appropriate pronouns like sir, ma’am, miss, dude, lady, etc…