Editorial cartoon by Claudia King.

We are lucky that we live in a society where so many people are different, and not afraid to be so. Unfortunately, America was not always this way. 100 years ago, some of the things that make us different would not have been considered good things. This includes religious differences. Thankfully, times have changed, and America has a much more open outlook towards religion. One small issue now, however, is whether people should cheerfully say “Merry Christmas!” or use the more inclusive “Happy holidays!” Some people find the more generic holiday greeting to be silly and distasteful, but this is not the case. There is nothing wrong with the former, of course, but the latter is more inclusive towards people of all kinds.
The United States has many rules and regulations in place to ensure that no person will be discriminated against in any way, shape, or form. This includes freedom of religion, ensured by the First Amendment. This protects people of all religions (including those with a lack thereof.) The majority of the United States is indeed Christian, but that does not make it America’s official religion. America was purposefully designed without an official religion to promote and allow as much individual thought as was possible.
While changing the phrase from “Christmas season” to “holiday season” is not a major change, it can make a large impact. Many people are attacked daily for following their religion- even though the right to have their own religion is granted by the Constitution. Even if you don’t see it, religious discrimination, unfortunately, does still exist.
Of course, simply calling the December holiday season “Christmas season” doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights to participate in another religion. Just calling it by that name doesn’t deprive anyone of their Constitutional rights. That simple phrase is not the direct cause of religious discrimination. But in a society filled with so many other religions, it’s not fair to focus on just one. And adjusting one’s vocabulary to say “holiday season” instead of “Christmas season” isn’t a hard change to make- and changing just one word suddenly includes thousands more people than it did before.
Clearly, this is not to say that saying “Merry Christmas” is the ultimate act of religious discrimination. It’s a common phrase that many people use to convey their holiday cheer. There is nothing inherently wrong with that phrase! Rarely, if ever, does anyone say it with malice. The point of “Happy holidays”, though, is just to have a more inclusive alternative that is just as easy to use as the first option is.
Of course, you can- and should- still wish your Christian friends a “Merry Christmas!” Just don’t forget Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and the other holidays in December. A generic greeting of “Happy holidays!” will always be a safe, warm, and kind thing to say.