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Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays

Saying “Merry Christmas” shouldn’t be a political statement

Once President-elect Trump vowed to end the war on Christmas and stated that we’re going to say “Merry Christmas” again, a nationwide silent cheer went up as Americans across the country felt the weight of the religious suppression that permeates and fuels political correctness lifted in a very real way.

Americans who felt, almost physically felt, that iron wall lift are mostly Christians and people who identify as Republicans or conservatives.

This religious and political affiliation analysis is backed up by a recent study by PRRI.

PRRI reports:

As the country becomes more diverse and less religiously affiliated, Americans are divided over whether it is more appropriate for stores and businesses to greet customers with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas” out of respect for people of different religious faiths: 47% say they should, while 46% say they should not.

Attitudes on this question are largely unchanged over the last six years. This issue sharply divides the public by political affiliation, religious affiliation, and age.

Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say that stores should use more general greetings such as “Happy Holidays” (66% vs. 28%, respectively). Two-thirds (67%) of Republicans say stores and businesses should greet their customers with “Merry Christmas.” Political independents are about evenly divided with 44% preferring “Happy Holidays” and 48% preferring “Merry Christmas.”

There are stark religious divides as well. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of white evangelical Protestants and close to six in ten (58%) Catholics say stores should say “Merry Christmas” to greet customers. White mainline Protestants are closely divided over whether stores should say “Happy Holidays” (46%) or “Merry Christmas” (48%). A majority of non-white Protestants (56%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (58%) say stores should say “Happy Holidays” out of respect for people of different faiths.

The generation gap is perhaps the most telling.

PRRI continues:

Two-thirds (67%) of young adults (age 18-29), compared to only 38% of seniors (age 65 and older), say it is better for businesses to greet customers with “Happy Holidays” as opposed to “Merry Christmas.” A majority (54%) of seniors say stores should greet patrons with “Merry Christmas” during the holiday season.

I would be interested in seeing a regional breakdown, as well.  Having moved five years ago from Massachusetts, I have experienced the most glaring cultural differences between New England and the South during the Christmas season.

In Massachusetts, I worked in Boston but lived in a smallish, mostly blue collar town.  In Boston, it was “Happy Holidays” . . . if one dared recognize that there even was a December holiday (or reason to be happy).  Out in my town, it was the general sense that “Merry Christmas” was preferred, but I had to say it first, and the person to whom I said it would look around nervously, blush, and then finally, with a sense of strong defiance or of quiet camaraderie, say “Merry Christmas” back.

In Florida, it was I who was a bit self-conscious at first in saying what I’d always said, “Merry Christmas.”  In Massachusetts it eventually felt like a political statement, a political act of defiance, and I brought that feeling of near-combativeness and of defensiveness with me to Florida.

But here in Florida (I don’t live down in blue Florida), “Merry Christmas” just means “Merry Christmas.”  No one is posturing or making a statement or expressing some secret wish for the first time or shyly admitting that they aren’t all that politically correct in their heart of hearts.  It’s just a warm, heartfelt greeting that one gives and receives with gratitude for the reason for the season.


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I admit that I feel more freedom this Christmas to say “Merry Christmas,” and I am somewhat embarrassed to recognize that the prior PC culture had impacted my willingness to speak freely.
I hope that my new sense of inching back toward freedom is widespread.

While I understand that many now feel more comfortable saying Merry Christmas, it was never an issue or problem for me or mine because we live so far out in the boonies. Very litte of the cultural PC war has penetrated here.

I’m a rabid atheist, and the PC culture police actually incline me to saying, “Merry Christmas”, even if I don’t partake in that faith.

Even if I don’t believe in the religious dogma, or even the historicity of any particular birth 2016 years ago, ffs, if I’m going to say “Happy Ramadan” instead of “Happy Holidays” during Ramadan, or “Happy Diwali” instead of “Happy Holidays” during Diwali, why wouldn’t I say “Merry Christmas” during Christmas? Yes, I disavow your silly religion and belief system, but I acknowledge that you’ve got a holiday, it has a name, and I wish you well despite any of our theological differences.

Merry f’n Christmas, to one and all!

    Henry Hawkins in reply to jhkrischel. | December 25, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    If you’ll permit, I’d like to add another viewpoint of an atheist, in hopes of countering your choice to, at the same time, wish folks a Merry Christmas on Christmas Day, and to deeply insult them at the same time. I hope you feel better for it, but moreover, I hope you one day change whatever causes such an insulting post make you feel better.

    Mr. Krischel’s passive-agressive, insincere, self-serving post is not the norm for an atheist, rabid or otherwise, and with the detail that when I say normal, I mean most common. He is of the loud and obnoxious, in your face, activist sort of atheist, a sharp-toothed puppy with a grievance. They account for less than 2% of atheists, but get onto our screens often because they are useful idiots for the left, and because they are ‘man bites dog’, a news item, rather than the ‘dog bites man’ type of the other 98% of atheists. They poison the well of atheists the way the Westboro Baptist Church poisons religion. They are not anywhere close to being representative of the whole of atheists.

    I am a soft atheist, since birth, not as a rejection of God due to some butthurt in my young years. I’m an atheist for the same reason very very few of LI readers are Zoroastrians – they were not indoctrinated in the belief as children. There are no rejections, no sad accounts of having lost a beloved child and blaming God for it, no post-adolescent refusals to follow familial religious tradition. I simply wasn’t instructed in any religion nor made to attend services at any point of my children. Atheism isn’t necessarily born of bad reactions or smug elitism. There are entirely innocent reasons to be an atheist, my case being but one example.

    I recognize that as an atheist born and raised in America, my character and beliefs were deeply affected in a good way by having been raised in a predominantly Christian society. This is no insult to Judaisim or any other religion. The demographics and geographics of my youth were that 85% of my society, my schools, towns, neighbors, etc., were Christian, mostly Catholics in the downtown Detroit area of the ’50s and ’60s. Our next door neighbor in the riverfront section of Detroit at the time were Jewish, a retired couple who played the roles of George and Martha Wilson to my Dennis The Menace. If you could get past the irrascible old coot George, Martha was a reliable source of cookies, cakes, pies, and pastries any time, day or night.

    Most atheist don’t mention it unless specifically asked, and often not even then. This is due to three reasons: (1) not wanting to offend present company or cause a ‘scene’ of someone starting an argument, (2) knowing that a certain very small percentage of the folks who are in my life take great offense, but you can’t tell who they are until you answer the question, “what religion are you, Henry?” (3) and lastly, because when you’re a soft atheist, anything to do with religion has no reason to enter your mind. It doesn’t come up, the same way proper TIG welding techniques probably don’t enter an attorney’s mind very often.

    Please don’t let the loud, obnoxious activist atheists define all atheists. If they pick fights as standard operating procedure, be aware you are dealing with children developmentally, not serious scholars or philosophers. They have needs and their in-your-face atheism is a pathway, not a destination.

    I posted here for years before acknowledging I was an atheist when politely asked by a co-commenter. Please know that the great majority of atheists are not like those whom the media like to promote because media loves poking the eye of any western religion. The great majority of atheists would agree with this:

    1. My atheism has nothing to do with your religion. I firmly believe in our right to worship -or not- as we see fit. I would defend your rights as strongly as I would my own – because it’s the same right.

    2. My atheism is an entirely different foundational stone within my heart and mind than is politics. My atheism is 99.99% irrelevant to my politics. My politics are 99.99% irrelevant to my atheism.

    3. I am also a scientifically minded person. I realize there are many aspects of many religions that do not stand up to scientific scrutiny. However, I also realize than none of these religions claim to be scientifically sound. There are a very few members of given religions who do claim to be entirely scientific – creationists, for one – but none of them are representative of their reported religion. Since every religion I ever come into contact with claims theirs’ is a matter or faith, not science, there is zero reason for me to contest them. Zero good reasons, that is. Luckily, my science education has not devolved into a way to work out inner demons by shouting insults at people who believe in God on one of their holy days.

    4. Of all American religions, fundamentalist Christians seem to get the most abuse from in-your-face activist atheists. Again, I don’t care if one is a Bible-thumping moralist scold trying to force all to accept their beliefs, or a Jesus-Lite suburban progressive part time church-goer whose LIV politics are also irretrievably enmeshed with their religion. The point is it’s none of my business for any reason, let alone that I’m some superior being called an atheist to whom you damn well ought to listen. The idea makes me laugh.

    I had several other points in mind, but I do go on and you get the gist. Let me just say this:

    I’m 61 years old, and during my time I’ve had maybe two or three religious people seriously and inappropriately berate me for my atheism. During that same time I’ve had two or three dozen Atheists berate me for being an irresponsible soft atheist who refuses to do his duty by attacking the enemy God believers. “F**k off” is and has been my standard reply.

    Today is Christmas. Y’all know what it means. Like a lot of folks, some of my fondest memories come from childhood, and many of those centered on Christmas, always celebrated in my home with a tree, gifts, special dinner, etc., like most folks. Not much religion involved, but we loved the season and the increased amperage of joy and love it brings out in people.

    Today is Christmas. It’s my first Christmas alone, having lost my wife last spring, while a half dozen grown children have cast themselves to the winds – as they should. “Get away from me,” I tell them. “I’ve taught you all I can, but far more remains to be learned.” Three members of my wife’s church came by, gifted me some Carolina Roasted Peanuts and a loaf of possibly the worst fruitcake I’ve ever had. They are family friends. If you’re an atheist in America, especially here in the south (I live in North Cackalacky), you cannot avoid contact and social interaction with Christians. Do not panic. They will not harm you. In fact, their first instinct is to love you if they can. Only you the atheist can mess that up by getting all barky and nippy and superior. In my experience, I have had no trouble getting along fine with 99% Christians. The 1% where I failed wasn’t because of their Christianity, it was because they were assholes. Yeah, Christians have ’em too, though ugly activist atheists strive to gain a monopoly on them.

    Shut up, Henry. Enough was enough a dozen pages ago.

    MERRY CHRISTMAS TO Y’ALL….. from a normal, run-of-the-mill atheist who has received far, far more from Christians than he has lost, pure loving profit for me.

    And please pray for the loudmouthed activist atheists who would call your religious beliefs ‘silly’ in the same breath he wishes you Merry Christmas. Does prayer work? Damned if I know, right? But that’s just me being honest. We’ll take Pascal’s Wager on the hope it does, and prayer cures these hateful elitists who ruin the image of atheism.

      DaveGinOly in reply to Henry Hawkins. | December 25, 2016 at 9:15 pm

      I’m an atheist too. But as a conservative, I find the secularization of the holiday disturbing and I resent it, and I detest its commercialization (in spite of being a capitalist). I understand its foundations (I was raised a Roman Catholic) and respect that. So I have always said “Merry Christmas” for two reasons – first, it’s f’ing Christmas, it’s not right to turn it into “happy holidays” – there’d be no holiday without Christmas and Christians (I think we would have given up celebrating Sol Invictus a long time ago if “Christmas” hadn’t been established). Second, it bugs people who don’t like to hear it, mostly liberals. Never pass up an opportunity to bug a liberal.

        Henry Hawkins in reply to DaveGinOly. | December 25, 2016 at 10:50 pm

        It’s impossible not to bug a liberal, lol. They thrive on being bugged, and cease to be liberals the minute nothing bugs them.

        Milhouse in reply to DaveGinOly. | December 26, 2016 at 7:33 pm

        it’s not right to turn it into “happy holidays” – there’d be no holiday without Christmas and Christians

        But that isn’t true. Every year there’s both Christmas, which some people celebrate, and New Year, which almost everyone does. And if you’re giving your greetings early in the season then Chanukah is usually coming up some time soon. Especially this year, when Chanukah happens to span exactly the two other holidays.

      Thank you for that insight into your thoughts. I will keep in my thoughts and prayers.

      Damn fine post.

      I saw a lot of me in there,

If you celebrate Christmas, you should wish people a merry Christmas. Period.

    DaveGinOly in reply to rotten. | December 25, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    I don’t celebrate it. In fact, I avoid it as much as possible (with my family on the other coast and my friends here understanding, it’s not that difficult). But when I must wish someone a greeting, it’s “Merry Christmas.” I don’t care if it offends. I find “happy holidays” offensive. I avoided my office’s “winter celebration” in part because of the offensive name. But in truth would have avoided it if it had been called a “Christmas party” but I wouldn’t have been offended by it.

I’ve always said Merry Christmas. If it offends you, that’s your problem, not mine.

    Agreed. When the happy holiday crap came out I made it a point to reply with Merry Christmas. Don’t like it, don’t pretend to wish me happy holidays.
    But I’m kind of hard headed that way.

      Milhouse in reply to 4fun. | December 26, 2016 at 7:35 pm

      What if the person wishing you happy holidays doesn’t celebrate Christmas? Why are you wishing that person a merry one, instead of whichever holidays s/he is celebrating? And why do you take offense at someone not knowing whether you celebrate this particular holiday?

I’m nostalgic for the days when humans generally communicated via grunts, snarls, and odors.

This is silly. Nobody objects to wishing Merry Christmas to those who happen to celebrate it. What this is about is acknowledging the fact that not everyone does.

As someone to whom Christmas means nothing at all, I make a point of wishing a merry one to those whom I know do celebrate it. I hope they enjoy their holiday to its fullest. But if I don’t know someone does happen to celebrate it, I don’t assume they do. And when I see a “Merry Christmas” I assume it’s addressed to those who celebrate it, and thus has nothing to do with me. That’s no reason for me to take offense, but it also doesn’t engage me.

When a business says “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy holidays”, it is pointedly aiming its greetings at only a portion of its customers. And since the whole point of the business conveying such greetings is to create warmth and goodwill in its customers, why on earth would it want to limit that to only some customers when it can just as easily greet all of them, or at least all those who are celebrating something around now, which is pretty much everyone, even if it’s only New Years?

    Sorry to be so long responding, Milhouse! Christmas and all. 🙂

    Anyway, I get that the general sense is that “Merry Christmas” should be said only to those one knows to be Christians who don’t object, but that’s the essence of my point.

    When I was a girl, long ago and far away, “Merry Christmas” meant “Merry Christmas” to those who celebrated the holiday and a general greeting of cheer and goodwill to everyone and anyone. I didn’t need to know if the person to whom I was speaking was Jewish or Muslim or whatever; it just meant, “yay! Peace and love in light and not stunk up by patchouli and meaningless sex.” It was tradition, it was anti-anticulture, and it was just done. Every show on TV did a Christmas special focused on Santa or Jesus or goodwill towards men. It wasn’t about “othering” people, it was inclusive and a fundamental part of our tradition and culture.

    I shouldn’t have to present a questionnaire to people before wishing them a Merry Christmas. If you don’t like it, fine, when I say it to you, tell me to f* off. That tells me and everyone in earshot far more about you than my initial goodwill greeting says about me. That, my friend, is what is changing, and it’s glorious.

    This whole “Merry Christmas” is exclusive crap you spew here is exactly what Americans resent and are pushing back against. It’s not exclusive, it never was. The very act of embracing strangers in a goodwill greeting is an act of inclusiveness, not exclusion.

    Progressives working to create division have changed that perception in a lot of people, yourself apparently included, but that is them, from the outside, looking in and deeming their own values more important than mine. Those days, thankfully, are drawing to a very welcome close.

    And no, you bigot, if you wish a Chinese person a Happy New Year at this time of year, you insult and exclude them! In fact, any business with Happy New Year signs is clearly saying “No Chinese people welcome! Go away, Chinese people!” . . . I had to add that because you don’t even get how your own point works. I’m relatively certain that you didn’t mean to exclude, alienate, and other every Chinese person (in the billions!) who don’t celebrate the New Year on our calendar. But, according to you, you just did. Bad Milhouse! 😛