There is much contention over the proper way to greet others and wish them well during this holiday season. For ages, a majority of Americans have wished each other a Merry Christmas. No thought was given to the receiver’s religious affiliation or lack thereof. It was understood that a Christian holiday was celebrated by all – or at least most – of those around us.
America is the land of immigrants. People of all nationalities, all religious backgrounds, all beliefs and non-belief. To assume our neighbors are as we, is to ignore the flux of time.
For some, I have no doubt, a greeting of “Happy Holidays” is meant to minimize the religious impact of “Merry Christmas”. I find that sad. There is no room for politicizing if one truly wishes another well. I do believe, however, that the intent to insult is rare so if someone wished me a happy holiday, I would simply respond in kind.
Which brings me to my salutation habits for the holidays. If I am with people whom I know celebrate Christmas, I am quick to cheerfully wish them a Merry Christmas. And when in the presence of people who celebrate Chanukah? Happy Chanukah, of course. To wish either something else would be the same as wishing a person a Happy Thanksgiving when it’s their birthday. It would not apply.
However, if I don’t know the person I am with – like just last week when I bought stamps at the post office – but I want to wish them happiness in whatever they celebrate, I will happily say, “Have a wonderful holiday!” or “Happy Holidays!” Most often, the response is just as cheerful and inclusive.
I live in a highly diverse area. I love the various cultures – the cuisines, the attire, the traditions and languages. The more aware we are of those around us, the more accepting we are and the happier our communities. Why exclude others – unintentionally or otherwise – by spreading joy of one holiday and not another?
From the majority of well-wishers, the expression “Happy Holidays” is not an insult but rather the opposite. It is saying I value you as an individual and do not judge you based on your beliefs when I wish you the best in the days ahead. So please, try not to be upset when people around you wish you happiness. More often than not, it is with the sincerest intent.
How do you wish others happiness this time of year? How do you respond to specific or general wishes for your happiness? Are you offended? Do you correct those who would wish you a Merry Christmas if that is not the holiday you celebrate? Or…?
Whatever the case, you now know my intent so I wish happy holidays to all of you. Whoever you are – whatever your belief – peace, love, comfort and health are my heartfelt wishes for you.