Merry Holidays?

When to Greet with “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas”

Kate Miller

In the midst of the holiday season, questions may arise as to what greeting to use when speaking to relatives, friends, or new acquaintances. “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” seem to sometimes cause controversy, depending on whose opinion is being expressed.

Michelle Anderson, a junior educational studies major, holds the belief either phrase works when greeting people around this time of year.

“I could say ‘Merry Christmas’ to my friend and they could say ‘Happy Holidays’ in reply. Greet however you choose and allow others to do the same,” she said.

Anderson’s opinion included understanding people can choose either to say. The speakers of the phrases are the ones who need to feel comfortable saying the greeting.

A different opinion revealed trying to be inclusive of those who do not celebrate Christmas. Anthony Nysveen, a senior exercise physiology major, said, “I think Happy Holidays … has a wider scope of people to reach.”

Christmas is not celebrated by everyone, therefore saying “Merry Christmas” to certain people will not have the same meaning originally intended to all groups of people. Saying “Happy Holidays” would be the more inclusive statement.

The controversial statements may not offend in the ways society thinks. Different groups of people will put more meaning than intended behind certain phrases of words. Amanda Dornhecker, senior undergraduate exercise physiology major, had more thoughts to add on why the meaning behind the phrases should not matter as much as some people think it does.

Dornhecker said, “I believe that in true honor of Christmas, less time should be spent deciding how to speak and more time should be spent deciding how to act.”

The holiday season is generally a time for family and friends to come together to enjoy one another’s company. Wasting time on deciding what to say defeats the purpose of simply sharing greetings and wishing others well.

Another view on saying “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” is expressed when looking at differences in cultures. As shown by Thuy Tu, junior nursing major, parallels can be drawn between saying “Merry Christmas” and cultures from other countries.

Over email, Tu said, “This issue is like people from different country. There is no reason to get offended when somebody speaks their language and practices their culture,” in relation to saying “Merry Christmas.”

Student opinions revealed the importance of allowing everyone to decide for themselves whether “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” fits their personal preference. The joy of welcoming others around the holiday season will be the true focus of the time period.