In Defense of the Phrase “Happy Holidays”

I truly thought we were going to get through this Christmas season without having a war between Christians and non-Christians over the phrase “Happy Holidays.” But apparently the war is alive and well, as noted by the Facebook post below.

I really appreciated Mike McKinley’s take on this phrase, so I am going to reproduce his blog post here … or you can read it here.

It’s that time of year when Christians get worked up about “the war on Christmas” (you know what I mean, the fact that the complete stranger selling you cable-knit sweaters at Old Navy has been instructed to wish you “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas”).  I honestly thought the sturm und drang on this issue had been played out, but it keeps popping up.

Now, I think it’s silly for unbelievers to be offended by being wished “Merry Christmas” and I am no fan of the inanities of political correct speak… but I wish people “Happy Holidays” sometimes.  And though something in me wonders if I’ll take heat for saying it, I think people who are upset about this situation should probably relax a little.  Five reasons:

1.    Is it wrong not to assume that strangers are believers? I have a category in my mind that the person I meet at the grocery store might be a Hindu, Jew, or Buddhist who doesn’t celebrate Christmas.  I would find it odd (though admittedly, not offensive) if someone wished me “Happy Diwali”.

2.    I don’t really care what retailers instruct their cashiers to say.  If they think they’ll make more money by saying “Happy Holidays”, that’s fine.  They’re not a church, they are in the business of selling you junk that you don’t need.  I’m more concerned with the wages they pay their employees and in their factories.

3.    The outrage over “Happy Holidays” seems to be motivated at least in part by a sadness that things have changed in our culture (though the folks over at Psychology Today think it has something to do with the allure of victimhood).  But one way or the other (to modify the words of Rick Pitino) Ward Cleaver isn’t walking through that door anytime soon.

4.    The phrase “Happy Holidays” can refer to a season.  It’s an easy way of saying “I hope you enjoy the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day when everything is a little different in a good way”.

5.    The word “Christmas” is nowhere in the Bible.  So, in one sense, I don’t feel like I have to have a dog in this fight.  The gospel is offensive enough, I don’t need to go looking for things with which to alienate my neighbors.

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