Cheerful sentiment not aimed to criticize

“Have a holly, jolly Christmas; and when you walk down the street, say hello to friends you know and everyone you meet.”

Yes, you may indeed say “hello” to everyone you meet, but keep your Christmas sentiments to yourself. God forbid, you might offend someone.

As we all know, department stores are inundated with seasonal decorations, and Burl Ives croons to shoppers as they weave through aisles after Thanksgiving. The song’s lyrics encourage a holly, jolly Christmas, but this sentiment is one that is quickly disappearing from conversation and can only be found in the music of the season – “the classics.” And while it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, your cashier will be forced to utter the politically correct version, “Happy Holidays,” instead. So what’s the deal?

I decided to do a little digging into the history of the expression “Happy Holidays” in the United States. A quick Google search revealed that the expression has been in widespread use for over 150 years. It can actually be traced to newspaper advertisements that date back to the mid-1860’s. It’s not a recent mastermind creation of anti-Christmas secular liberalism. It’s not a war on Christmas, and it’s not a war on Christians themselves. It was simply a description of the season, including Thanksgiving through New Year’s. For example, on December 5th, 1863, the Philadelphia Inquirer pronounced “Happy holidays are coming!” I highly doubt anyone found that offensive.

Even when people celebrate Christmas in their own homes and there are images of Old St. Nick and Christmas trees and the familiar glow of red and green Christmas lights decorate the town, people seem to be conflicted about what to say in the workplace, at school, or in public. There seems to be apprehension about making assumptions about other people’s religious or cultural beliefs, and a desire to avoid conflict or offense.

Perhaps, today, the “Happy holiday” expression is an attempt to be inclusive and respectful of various religious or cultural practices in the United States. But isn’t it exhausting to constantly worry about offending other people with something as simple as a well-meant salutation? I’d venture to say that being politically correct isn’t the issue, a hypersensitive American culture is, and entertaining these debates only coddles us more.

But if inclusivity is the goal, it’s important to note that true multiculturism would be to accept that different individuals have experiences that are different from our own, including holidays, traditions and customs. If a person celebrates Kwanzaa, I would expect him/her to say “Happy Kwanza,” and the same goes for Hanukkah or Christmas. The greetings are not offensive and we need to stop treating them as such.

Rather than worrying about being politically correct and not offending other people, we need to focus on thickening our skin and being a little more impervious.

In fact, I’m not arguing for the use of “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas,” or vice versa. One expression does not have more intrinsic value, nor is one more tasteful than the other.

I am advocating for the understanding that celebrating your holiday does not detract from or undermine my own holiday. If I were an atheist, I wouldn’t be offended by a “Merry Christmas” greeting, and if I was Christian, I wouldn’t be offended by a “Happy Hanukkah” salutation.

Rather than worrying so intensely about which holiday expression is least offensive, perhaps we should focus our attention on things like remembering to say “thank you” to the person who holds the door in front of us.

Lighten up and get in the spirit, everyone. It’s Christmas time.

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