“Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays”

One WSS reporter’s opinion on the differences in saying “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays.”


Pareen Mhatre

Controversy over whether one should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” has arisen recently, and more awareness has been brought to it.

Sophie Stephens, Online Managing Editor

When out shopping for the holiday seasons, I often hear “Have a Merry Christmas” or other comments regarding Christmas presents and celebrations from retail workers and customers alike. Coming from a family that celebrates Christmas every year, I never really questioned the fact that most people just assumed that I celebrate Christmas. But after meeting multiple people that don’t celebrate Christmas, I realized how legitimate the argument for not saying “Merry Christmas” was.

There has been a lot of controversy on whether it should be accepted for someone to say “Merry Christmas” no matter what holiday the person they are talking to celebrates.

I know most people who say “Merry Christmas” are truly just trying to be nice and jolly. ‘Tis the season, right? But for those on the receiving end of the well wishes that don’t celebrate Christmas, it can be awkward or even upsetting.

It is so disrespectful to say something that may be seen as targeting one group of people, especially after being asked not to say it

People who argue in favor of saying “Merry Christmas” usually defend their actions with the right of free speech. It’s true that it is a right to say “Merry Christmas” to whomever you wish. However, I feel the debate isn’t focused on whether it is allowed, but whether it should be accepted. Most people say “Merry Christmas” without really thinking about who they may be talking to, and that’s understandable. It is easy to just assume that your friends or classmates celebrate Christmas because you and your entire family celebrate. But, I disagree that it should be a default to say “Merry Christmas” to everyone, especially if you don’t know what holiday they celebrate. What bothers me more is when someone is told that they shouldn’t or aren’t allowed to say “Merry Christmas” and still argue about it or say “Merry Christmas” anyways.

It is so disrespectful to say something that may be seen as targeting one group of people, especially after being asked not to say it. Especially in the workplace or in a professional environment, it may be recommended to revert to saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” because it is more respectful. By not saying “Happy Holidays” and saying “Merry Christmas” instead, you not only look unprofessional in those impersonal environments, but you may dissuade people from shopping at those businesses or make people who don’t celebrate Christmas feel uncomfortable or unwanted. Although it is a right to say “Merry Christmas,” I find it more respectful to consider who you are saying it to.

Although Christmas is celebrated by a large amount of people, it is not the only holiday celebrated during December. Hanukkah and Kwanzaa are both celebrated the same time as Christmas. I say “Happy Holidays” even though I celebrate Christmas because I believe it is respectful to everyone. I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be allowed to say “Merry Christmas,” but it is more courteous to those that don’t celebrate Christmas. This holiday season, I recommend trying to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Infographic by Jessica Doyle.