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Happy Holidays and Genericity:

Given the unexpected attention being paid to my annoyance at "Happy Holidays," I ought to clarify things a bit.

First, I should repeat (but with emphasis added) that "If you tell me 'Happy Holidays,' I confess I'll get a bit annoyed because of its generic air, but I'll just assume that you're trying to play it safe -- often a very good strategy in social relations. Plus why be churlish about someone wishing you a happy anything?" It doesn't bug me much, and when I say "I confess," I mean I'm confessing it to you in this post; I certainly wouldn't berate or even glower at someone who is telling me "Happy Holidays."

Second, my chief concern about it is precisely its "generic air": "Holidays" is an abstract, general term that has much less directly evocative force than the concrete, specific "Christmas." Christmas has a wide array of immediate connotations to it, some quite vivid, and my sense is that for 90+% of the public (including many people who aren't religiously Christian) they are highly positive: Family gatherings, presents, traditions, and the like. The term "holidays" is also positive, but with many fewer immediate connotations, precisely because it covers such a wide territory.

In recognizing this, I've been influenced by Deirdre McCloskey's excellent Economical Writing: "A good general rule of words is Be Concrete. A singular word is more concrete than a plural (compare 'Singular words are more concrete than plurals'). Definiteness is concrete. Prefer Pepperidge Farm to bread, bread to widgets, and widgets to X.... In a paper on Australia the phrase 'sheep and wheat' would do just fine in place of 'natural resource-oriented exports.'" To shift from the happy to the macabre, I recall a paper of mine in which I was recounting a particular incident, and wrote "Two years later, Harriet committed suicide." Editing, I realized that it should read, "Two years later, Harriet drowned herself." It's not that this conveys much more practically useful information; but the concreteness makes the statement more vivid and immediately accessible.

Returning to "Happy Holidays," I am indeed bothered (as Eric correctly assumed) by the reason from the change from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays"; I believe it was prompted by an excessive concern about offending people who should not reasonably be offended by the old term. But if the change could have happened with no cost, I would be much less bothered. What bothers me more is precisely that the change was costly: It strikes me that a certain amount of emotional immediacy was lost in the change from Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays.

To be sure, though, the loss wasn't vast. And I sympathize with those who want to avoid offending or alienating listeners, even if I think the feeling of offense or alienation on the part of the listeners is unjustified, so I wouldn't hold the change against those who are now saying "Happy Holidays." That's part of why I'm only a bit annoyed by the phrase. But I am indeed a bit annoyed by it, by what it portends for some such changes in the future, and what it symbolizes about some such changes in the past.

JB:
Very well said.

I would add that anyone who says "Happy Holidays" is, rather than appeal to your supposed Judaism, probably trying to appease raving secularists who may or may not exist.

Those who appease real-life lunatics are only a small step above those who imagine lunatics, then appease them.

Rank cowardice and hallucinations annoy me.
12.28.2008 7:14pm
Ben Abbott (mail) (www):
Not to poke at your frustations, but is the specific "Happy Solstice" ok?

I'm a bit confused as to why you find "Happy Holidays" annoying.

Personally, I find "Happy Holidays" preferable because it is more inclusive (less divisive) ... at the same time I find it a bit empty (perhaps due to it generic nature).
12.28.2008 7:17pm
Johnny Canuck (mail):
Typo: Returning to "Happy Holidays," I am indeed bothered (as Eric correctly assumed) by the reason from the change from




"'sheep and wheat' would do just fine in place of 'natural resource-oriented exports.'"


I would have thought agricultural exports for sheep and wheat, would never have thought of sheep and wheat as natural resource- would have guessed minerals and forestry.
12.28.2008 7:22pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Ben Abbott: I don't object to Happy Solstice, when it's said someone to whom Solstice is really meaningful. I don't think it will be as effective at conveying good wishes, because for most listeners "Solstice" wouldn't have the vivid associations that "Christmas" has. But I'll take my good wishes where I can.

I'm not sure I can explain my annoyance at Happy Holidays any more than I tried to in the post itself (which stressed its emptiness), and in the original post on this chain (which tried to explain why I don't think it should be condemned as "divisive").
12.28.2008 7:22pm
Nick056:
Eugene: if Harriet drowned or shot herself, and you had guessed drowned, you'd be specific at the cost of being potentially innacurate. And if a living Harriet celebrated Hanukkah rather than Christmas, "Merry Christmas" to Harriet would also prize specificity over accuracy. No guide to economical writing advises you to choose the specific rather than the general if the specific is uncertain and sometimes wrong. Economical communication stresses the specific only if it's accurate.

When you can't be confident of your accuracy but still want to say something, that's a good reason to tend to the general. If "Merry Christmas" hits its mark the payoff is a slightly greater intimacy, but the cost is potentially greater alienation. Of course you can't alienate or offend any sensible stranger by saying Merry Christmas, but it could build a needless minor wall.
12.28.2008 7:47pm
John (mail):
I'm Jewish, and I love Christmas, pretty much as the secular holiday that it has become for non-Christian Americans (and, I suspect, many Christian ones). It's a time for children, for kindness, for helping others, and for snowy weather, warm fireplaces, family, and, dare I say it, good will to men. Anyone who wishes me a Merry Christmas gets my thanks.
12.28.2008 8:00pm
Esquire:
The dilution issue is indeed what has always bothered me. It further strikes me as disingenuous in the sense that the elephant in the room is we all know there's mainly only one "holiday" responsible for the cultural artifacts prompting such a greeting (as the post seems to acknowledge). Hence, failing to attribute credit accordingly is indeed a form of insult. In this fanatically PC era, what other group would be asked to just quietly accept such an indignity?

It's kind of like saying BCE instead of BC. We all know there's only one event anyone is using to when they base a calendar around 2 millennia ago -- so either give proper attribution or make up some new calendar system! It's not exactly intellectual property per se, but it's in the general spirit of piggybacking on someone else's (culture-forming) efforts.

Secularists seem to have this notion that there's such a thing as "neutrality" toward religion, without ever wanting to recognize that favoring inclusiveness over specificity is as much a subjective value judgment as any opposing worldview.

This is essentially a variation on the theme that's come up with SSM, ten commandment displays, and other areas of secularist philosophy demanding privileged status as a default baseline.
12.28.2008 8:05pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Nick056: My earlier post explains (albeit implicitly) why I think that non-Christians ought not be offended by "Merry Christmas," and that therefore the specific is not "wrong." But I do agree that it may be tactically wiser for people not to annoy listeners, whether the annoyance is justified or not.
12.28.2008 8:05pm
Ben Abbott (mail) (www):
Eugene: I'm with you on the emptiness part (although it doesn't annoy me).

Unfortunately, I've exposed to a few too many evangelical hell-fire types.

While my impression of the character is Jesus is (for practical purposes) exclusive to their's the success of such individuals in painting Jesus as one of them violenty turns my stomach :-(
12.28.2008 8:32pm
Ben Abbott (mail) (www):
Esquire: "Secularists seem to have this notion that there's such a thing as "neutrality" toward religion, without ever wanting to recognize that favoring inclusiveness over specificity is as much a subjective value judgment as any opposing worldview"

Hmmm ... If there are two choices and one is more inclusive and another more divisive, it is not subjective to chose the one which favors the larger group.

That said, I'm not convinced that "Merry Christmas" with its Santa, Reindeer, decorated tree, wreaths, and misletoe is sufficiently divisive to merit a concerted effort to switch to "Happy Holidays".

Although there are amble examples of religious zealotry that motive many to try

Note: Before anyone attacks me, I deliberately imply a duality there ... give it some thought before chastising me ;-)
12.28.2008 8:44pm
roimort (mail):
I can't follow the annoyance.

Happy Holidays means only "you may be Christian or Jewish or keep some other holiday (Kwanzaa, Solstice, whatever) at this time of year". Why should I know or care which is your precise belief? And why should I be wishing Jews a merry Christmas? That is completely inappropriate, regardless of whether you think Jews should be offended by it. Speaking as a Jew, when someone wishes me a merry Christmas, I am not offended, but I am definitely annoyed.

Happy Holidays recognizes that most Americans observe some holiday at this time of year; if nothing else isn't the New Year a holiday we all celebrate? The formula, while anodyne, is neutral and uncontroversial. So if you don't like being offered a friendly seasonal sentiment, you can stick your annoyance where the sun don't shine.

Happy Holidays.
12.28.2008 8:49pm
Esquire:
Ben, I would certainly never "chastise" anyone for civil discourse. (Although, I have been chastised occasionally for my own disagreement with secularist worldviews...)

I'm afraid I don't see how "favor[ing] the larger group" is not a subjective value judgement, in direct opposition for example to a value judgment which would prefer to favor a smaller group. Majoritarianism may indeed be a prevalent value in many contexts, but it can indeed be legitimately philosophically critiqued...

Many religious Christians do of course disagree with the secularization/commercialization of Christmas as well, but I see that as a separate issue from recognizing it at all.
12.28.2008 8:54pm
jweaks:

...I think that non-Christians ought not be offended by "Merry Christmas," and that therefore the specific is not "wrong."


These days, it seems, we often accept that something is offensive simply because someone is offended.

Merry Christmas to all.

jw
12.28.2008 9:05pm
Anderson (mail):
Christmas is two things:

(1) the Christian festival of celebrating the incarnation of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; and

(2) a secular holiday, observed by federal and state governments as well as by a great proportion of the private sector.

People who have zero interest in commemorating (1) are nonetheless likely to receive a holiday from work for (2), and may well choose to observe (2) by various rituals associated with (1) but assimilated by the secular world, such as Christmas trees with presents under them.

"Merry Christmas" should be perfectly construable as observing either (1) or (2), and thus should not offend anyone ...

... who isn't looking for something to be offended by.

/rant
12.28.2008 9:31pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Anderson: Christmas is a Christian holiday. It is not a secular one. The fact that recognizing the former has effects even on those who do not participate does not make it "secular."
12.28.2008 9:59pm
Bruce:
You guys have it all wrong. You're all focusing on the "holiday" or "Christmas" part. What about the "happy" or "merry" part? Now that's generic. Who says I have to have a HAPPY holiday or a MERRY Christmas? Why do you get to tell me what to do? How annoying! In order not to annoy me, even just a little bit, you have to say, "Entertain whatever emotional state you want on Christmas." I will not rest until this becomes the default greeting this time of year.
12.28.2008 10:19pm
Nick056:
Eugene: I think we may be talking past each other. I don't think it is wrong in any moral or ethical sense to wish absolutely everyone a merry Christmas, regardless of any offense taken. The offense taken, or reasonableness behind that offense, has no bearing. It's wrong in the sense that it is inaccurate -- like a wrong answer to a test question. My point is that people flee to the general if the specific may be wrong. And wishing anybody who does not observe Christmas a merry Christmas is wrong on the facts. You could say that you merely mean to recall "the Christmas season" or all associations and effects of the holiday, but then you're complicit in what bothers you: the flight to generalities and the loss of specific meaning.

If someone doesn't celebrate Christmas, expressing a wish that they have a merry Christmas celebration is factually in error and conceivably based on an assumption that other celebrations are sufficiently rare as to pass without comment or inclusion. That said, I frequently do just exactly that, because merry Christmas, as you've pointed out, is more evocative than "holiday." I suppose your point is that people should speak a seasons greeting that reflects to a greater degree our shared experience and enjoy the intimacy at the expense of our hyperinflated egos. It's a point well made. It informs my choice of words. But I can't see my way clear to expressing annoyance at people who are speaking with due prudence and a preference for avoiding flat-out inaccuracy. Nor can I go along with the notion that it's wrong to bother being annoyed by Merry Christmas, but that the equally subjective annoyance at "happy holidays" is justified.

And the idea that "happy holidays" is like "BCE" is absured. "BCE" suggests that maybe something else leads us to mark the years the way we do, which isn't true, while "happy holidays" suggests that some people celebrate, say, only Hannukah, which is true.
12.28.2008 10:21pm
Ben Abbott (mail) (www):
Esquire: "Majoritarianism may indeed be a prevalent value in many contexts, but it can indeed be legitimately philosophically critiqued..."

Perhaps, but what of the present context?

Is there not more objective value in an inclusive celebration than in a divisive one?
12.28.2008 10:24pm
jweaks:

If someone doesn't celebrate Christmas, expressing a wish that they have a merry Christmas celebration is factually in error...

I would argue otherwise... Christians should and often do wish non-Christians a "Merry Christmas" and it isn't an error. The point is taken that wishing someone a "merry celebration" for something they don't celebrate is odd, but it isn't about the celebration.
12.28.2008 10:39pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
And the idea that "happy holidays" is like "BCE" is absured. "BCE" suggests that maybe something else leads us to mark the years the way we do, which isn't true, while "happy holidays" suggests that some people celebrate, say, only Hannukah, which is true.
You have it backwards. Something else does lead us to mark the years the way we do: the fact that everyone else does it. That's accurate. But Happy Holidays suggests that something other than Christmas is motivating the statement, which isn't true. Happy Holidays is merely a euphemism for Merry Christmas. (Since it's often used after Chanukah is over, it's obviously not about Chanukah.)
12.28.2008 11:23pm
Ben Abbott (mail) (www):
David: "But Happy Holidays suggests that something other than Christmas is motivating the statement, which isn't true. Happy Holidays is merely a euphemism for Merry Christmas. (Since it's often used after Chanukah is over, it's obviously not about Chanukah.)"

hmmm ... I'll descend further into the moot and point out that both Christmas and Chanukah each descend from the Pagan festival observing the Winter Solstice.
12.28.2008 11:30pm
lucia (mail) (www):
EV--
Pepperidge Farm to bread

I prefer Pepperidge Farm to bread too-- especially their turnovers. But the turnovers are light and fluffy and nothing like concrete. :)
12.28.2008 11:52pm
ll (mail):

That said, I'm not convinced that "Merry Christmas" with its Santa, Reindeer, decorated tree, wreaths, and misletoe is sufficiently divisive to merit a concerted effort to switch to "Happy Holidays".



Happy Holidays

vs.

Merry Christmas

vs.

Happy Celebration Commemorating The Birth of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, Son of Man, Son of God.
12.28.2008 11:52pm
David Warner:
EV,

As an example of this process, many mainline protestant churches have changed the 18-century-old doxology (likely the oldest Christian hymn/prayer) from "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" to "Triune God whom we adore", completely undermining the whole point of conceiving of God in three "persons", i.e. so that one might more readily relate to God imagined concretely.

But at least the patriarchy took one on the chin.
12.29.2008 12:06am
Michael Cagle (mail):
I'm an atheist who doesn't object at all to "Merry Christmas," or find it offensive or annoying. But I can't really understand why anyone would be annoyed about "Happy Holidays." You know, there really are other holidays. Not just Hanukkah, Kwanza, "Solstice" and so forth, but New Year's! Remember? Most people who are celebrating Christmas are celebrating that, too! It is a holiday season, after all, not just one holiday. If someone says "Happy Holidays," they are just wishing you an additional week (at minimum) of pleasure. And yet, the complaints rain down ... sheesh.
12.29.2008 12:50am
Nick056:
David,

It's clear that nothing else happened in year zero that makes it year zero. But in the Christmas season, well, there are other several other holidays. Saying that "happy holidays" is in fact nothing but a euphimism for "merry Christmas" ... have you been following the discussion? "Holidays" is occassionally chosen to include actual, existing, real holidays besides Christmas. You seem to be -- sorry, you are saying -- that there is no room for this possibility. It's only ever a euphimism for Christmas. That could only be true if no one ever said "happy holidays" with the intent of making a good faith effort to include, for example, Hannukah in making season's greetings to Jews.

Obviously this happens sometimes. Obviously you are dead wrong.
12.29.2008 1:28am
Bruce_M (mail):
Note that people say "Happy holidays" not "Happy holiday" in the singular. Yes, part of it is not knowing whether the person is celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanza, etc. But the bigger part of it is that those holidays are just a few days before another big holiday - New Year's eve (the celebration of the new year, whether it be Dec. 31 or Jan 1 the following day).

"Happy holidays" is easier than "Merry christmas or hannukah and happy new year." I see "happy holidays" as wishing someone happiness on two basically subsequent holidays. It's understood that the vast majority of people only celebrate one religious holiday, either Christmas OR Hannukah, not both (though some mixed families may celebrate both). A sign that says "Happy Holidays" (plural) is directed at each person reading it, not everyone reading it collectively. So the plurality of the word "holidays" refers to both Christmas or Hannukah and New Years. That's the way I see it, and that's the most logical reading. If "holiday" were meant as a generic substitute for all december religious holidays, the greeting would be "Happy Holiday". You'd say "Happy Birthday to all those celebrating their birthday in December" not "Happy Birthdays to all those celebrating their birthday in December."

I'm an atheist and while I certainly hate the increased religiosity during the holiday season, I'm not so vain as to get upset if someone wishes me a happy christmas or hannukah. But if they only say happy/merry christmas/hannukah, isn't it a little odd that they're not also wishing me a happy new year, too, since it's only a few days afterwards?

Of course, people like Bill O'Reilly who see "happy holidays" as an assault on Christianity are the epitomy of the vain assholes who are single handedly destroying this country - and the world at large - by stoking the flames of those infected with religion. It's easy to espouse an opinion based on the fact that the majority of people presumably share the basis of your opinion. That's polemics for weak, chickenshit, cowardly jackasses. It's like being anti-crime. Ooooh... wow.... what a brave stance... what guts it must take to be anti-crime.
12.29.2008 1:42am
mbw000 (mail):
While I basically don't have any problem with your position or feelings about Christmas greetings, I think the issue of linguistic concreteness that you raise provides some support for saying "Happy Holidays" to non-Christians.

Consider some possible meaning (including connotations) of "Merry Christmas."

1. "I wish you happiness at this time of year when people take time off from work and go to parties and give presents and many people celebrate an event (or mythical event) that is important in their religion."

This shouldn't make many non-Christians uncomfortable, but it isn't very concrete. It's really just a translation of "Happy Holiday."

2. "I wish you happiness at this time of year when people take time off from work etc. because of a holiday that arose primarily from joy over the birth of the savior of humanity, and whose celebration, even in a heavily secular society, is closely associated with symbolism of this event, either directly or at a close remove. Concretely, I am evoking a mixture of secular symbols and rituals (e.g. the song Frosty the Snowman), religious symbols (e.g., creches,specifically religious Christmas carols), and things in between (e.g., Christmas trees, which may or may not have an angel or Star of Bethlehem on top, and even without may evoke creches, carols, etc.)."

While I don't think a non-Christian should be offended by the latter meaning, it is getting a bit in-your-face (in a friendly way and probably unintentional way) about Christianity. Intentionally or otherwise, I think it is hard to get very concrete about the connotations of "Christmas" without doing this without evoking a lot of Christian religion and cultural practice and symbolism.

So, arguably, the more "Merry Christmas" has concrete connotations, the stronger the argument that maybe it is more polite in some circumstances to say "Happy Holidays."
12.29.2008 2:07am
jgshapiro (mail):

Returning to "Happy Holidays," I am indeed bothered (as Eric correctly assumed) by the reason from the change from "Merry Christmas" to "Happy Holidays"; I believe it was prompted by an excessive concern about offending people who should not reasonably be offended by the old term.

I think you are reading way too much into Happy Holidays. I don't think most people use it out of political correctness (or out of a concern for safety in social relations) -- it is just more economical than saying Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Happy Holidays encompasses both holidays; Merry Christmas only picks up one. New Year's Day generally has the same emotional connection as Christmas - you spend it with your family and you get it off from work. Since they are only a week apart, it makes plenty of sense to go with the more economical version.
12.29.2008 3:02am
1789:
A few quick comments:

1. Impertinent religious communications can be annoying.

2. Saying "Merry Christmas" is hardly the kind of religious communication that reasonable people should find annoying. (I can't imagine being offended by it; at the same time, it instantly reinforces to someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas how little you even know them, kind of like saying "Happy Mother's Day" to a 45-year-old female stranger who happens to be childless and no longer have her mother living, while "Have a great weekend" said to a mother you don't happen to know would still have been received warmly.)

3. Hypersensitivity about religious communications can also be annoying (e.g., when a non-Christian freaks out about hearing "Merry Christmas").

4. Hypersensitivity to those who are hypersensitive about religious communications can be equally annoying (e.g., refusing to publish certain cartoons for fear of offense to Muslims).

5. Saying "Happy Holidays" is not necessarily the result of the type of hypersensitivity described in number 4, above. For example, it's after December 25th now, and, with Christmas over, "Happy Holidays" is pretty much the most suitable way of conveying good wishes for events that include one yet to come, i.e., New Year's.
12.29.2008 4:14am
Yankev (mail):

if nothing else isn't the New Year a holiday we all celebrate?

I thought so too, then I saw this article in the Jerusalem Post (never figured out how to post a link, so this is in several parts:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?

cid=1230111722012&pagename=

JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull


it's also New Year's Day that takes on a whole different meaning in Israel. Granted, "Sylvester," as it is known here, has increased in visibility over the years, but it still enjoys nowhere near the status it has abroad.



I remember being at a loss the first time I heard New Year's called "Sylvester." My mind conjured up film stars portraying boxers (Sylvester Stalone), and lead vocalists singing about everyday people (Sylvester "Sly" Stone).




The New Year's Eve I come from was one of banging pots and pans, unfulfilled expectations, football games and onion dips. Mostly it was pretending to have fun.



But then I came here and met Sylvester. I read about hotels losing kashrut certificates if they had Sylvester parties, learned that Sylvester was a fourth-century pope responsible for all kinds of anti-Semitism, discovered that January 1 in antiquity was always a good time to kill Jews. I was stunned.



ACCORDING TO the Jewish literacy Web site SimpleToRemember.com, "Caesar celebrated the first January 1 New Year by ordering the violent routing of revolutionary Jewish forces in the Galilee. Eyewitnesses say blood flowed in the streets." And there's more: "On New Year's 1581, [Pope] Gregory ordered his troops to confiscate all sacred literature from the Roman Jewish community. Thousands of Jews were murdered in the campaign." All of which, obviously, takes some of the joy out of the celebrations, adds a degree of guilt to participating in Tennyson's "ringing out the old, ringing in the new."

Though I plan to be at a [Jewish] friend's house Weds. evening for a night of chili and games — except between 9 and 10, when, like most weeks, I'll be learning a bit of gemara with my Weds. night chavrusa (study partner).
12.29.2008 9:49am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Sometimes I greet people by saying "hello." Sometimes I say, "howdy." Sometimes I say "good morning/afternoon/evening." Sometimes I say "hey."

Sometimes I say "merry christmas" and sometimes I say "hello." Or "happy holidays."

I don't see the issue. Christmas is a holiday. I hope your holiday is happy.

Saying "happy holidays" is not a new development. It's ancient, there are even songs devoted to it.

Get over yourself and your petty annoyances. It's quite a silly issue.
12.29.2008 9:51am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
"never figured out how to post a link"

I once tried to explain that, here.
12.29.2008 10:06am
Ak Mike (mail):
Here's where, in my view, the "annoyance" comes in for Jews. Let me preface this by saying that I don't see anything wrong in making whatever conventional greeting one wishes to make. It is not offensive to say "Merry Christmas" (although a bit odd if you know a person to be Jewish) or "Happy Holidays" or whatever. But -

Jews do have a holiday season. It's not in December, it is in September when there are four major holidays. For Jews, the phrase "the holidays" refers to early fall. Chanukah is a minor holiday of exactly the same status as Purim, which few non-Jews know about.

Here's a hypothetical to try to convey this. Imagine that you live in a tolerant country where Christians constitute only a few percent of the population. Nearly everyone else has a religion whose major celebration ("Romex") occurs in late October. Not wishing to offend, many residents have included All Saints Day symbols in many of the Romex holiday displays, and even have changed the traditional Romex greeting "have a ripping Romex" into "happy holidays" to recognize the Christian holiday of All Saints Day. Everyone knows about All Saints Day, and most inhabitants believe it to be, like Romex, the major holiday of the annual cycle.

However, few in the general population have ever heard of Christmas or Easter, and in contrast to All Saints Day (Nov. 1), these holidays pass unnoticed by the broader society.

As a Christian, you might feel a little funny when someone says "happy holidays" in October (it never happens in December), because it reminds you that you are in some senses a stranger to this society - a kind and tolerant society, but obviously one that knows nothing about your faith or observances. "Happy holidays" is simply another way of expressing "ripping Romex" with an attempt at being more inclusive. At least when they say "have a ripping Romex" they are expressing the reality that the special greetings are caused only by the fact of Romex, and not actually by the fact of the minor Christian holiday that happens to fall at roughly the same time.
12.29.2008 10:18am
Yankev (mail):
Ak Mike, nicely stated. One could argue that Chanukah is of lesser importance than Purim, but as someone pointed out to me, this forum is not a bes medrash.
12.29.2008 11:03am
WASP:
I am offended by people who intend to weight their greeting with a political message. I am more offended by people who think, for no reason, another is intending to weight their greeting with a political message.

I say Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, or Seasons Greetings, as the fancy strikes, without thought of any political message but I tend to use HH or Seasons Greetings, when I am wishing it to someone I won't see before the New Year, and it is, in that case, more precise. I don't give any thought to the other guys subtext when he wishes me greetings. That someone would do so, I think is churlish.
12.29.2008 11:19am
Floridan:
I suggest that all hyper-senstive Christians spend their time volunteering at a homeless kitchen or children's hospital, or even take their kids out for ice cream rather than waste time on this inane issue.

And if one is (slightly) annoyed at being wished Happy Holidays, how much more irritated should one be when there is no such greeting offered at all? Or what about the people who might say, "Have a nice day," without specifying what day they had in mind?
12.29.2008 2:45pm
Lymis (mail):
Personally, I wish people a Merry Christmas verbally, and in our cards, unless I specifically know them to be non-Christian, in which case I make a point to wish them a happy holiday. I've never had anyone express offense.

I do, however, find myself increasingly annoyed at the Merry Christmas Police.

It is similar to the "In God We Trust" on money or the "Under God" in the Pledge. As a Christian, it never occured to me to be bothered, and even as a Christian, I felt it was only about as theological as dating our years from the year 0 or saying "goodbye" - as in, not.

Then, I got more and more people, in person, and worse, at the federal level, trying to explain that having those words on the money or in the Pledge proved that we are a Christian country and that therefore, specifically theological interpretations of morality, civil rights, and education needed to trump the secular. If "In God We Trust" on a nickel provides support against, say, same-sex marriage quality, then get it off my money pronto.

I haven't got there with Christmas yet, and I resent deeply that I am beginning to. But as more and more people who have forced me to be inundated with red and green and snowflakes and Christmas Carols since two weeks before friggin Halloween keep announcing that the only allowed greeting for the last quarter of the year is "Merry Christmas" I am beginning to see the attraction of the shift to Happy Holidays.

Am I the only one who kept having to remind myself, with periodic little cognitive shocks, starting around the 20th, that it wasn't Christmas yet? It felt like it was over around the 18th this year. Yeesh. 12 days used to be a long festival.

Of course, since today, the 29th is still only the 4th day of the old festival, as far as I am supposed to be concerned, it still IS Christmas. Or should be. But I am burned out.
12.29.2008 3:53pm
Oaktown Guest:
I feel like the discussion is missing part of the equation. For the most part, we've focused on the effect of 'Merry Christmas' v. 'Happy Holidays' on the listener, who may or may not be christian, etc.

I tend to say happy holidays not (entirely) because of my concern about the person to whom I'm speaking, but because I myself am not religious. (Thus, Happy Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice would be equally inapplicable.) Sure, I was raised celebrating Christmas, but it genuinely doesn't feel like Christmas season at this point. It's a nice time of year, full of parties, good food, family and copious drinking. It's the Holiday Season to me, and so I wish happy holidays to others.

Not that I expect to change anyone's mind or anything, but I think the focus on the impact of the hearer is missing at least part of the equation.
12.29.2008 6:36pm
Michael Drake (mail) (www):
"Prefer Pepperidge Farm to bread, bread to widgets, and widgets to X...."

I guess this means strike "Merry Xmas," at least.
12.30.2008 9:42am
Yankev (mail):

"have a ripping Romex"
Can I use that as my response next time someone wishes me Happy holidays/Happy Chanukah/Merry Chr*stmas?
12.30.2008 11:30am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Romex indeed. But way at the top, Nick says "And if a living Harriet celebrated Hanukkah rather than Christmas" -- chances are Harriet celebrates the High Holidays rather than Christmas.
12.31.2008 2:22pm

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