Is it OK to say “Merry Christmas”?
In the name of inclusiveness, many onsite professionals have taken to the more universal December greeting, “Happy Holidays!” After all, this is the season for several other holidays; and perhaps the person you are greeting does not celebrate Christmas.
On the other hand, some people are actually offended if you don’t greet them with a “Merry Christmas!” This is often due to their belief that we need to leave the Christian sentiment – the birth of Jesus – in the holiday greeting. “Don’t take Christ out of Christmas” you might hear them say.
What is the Fair Housing Perspective? Could it be a fair housing violation to use the phrase “Merry Christmas” and to seemingly show favor to one religious belief over another? Obviously, if you enhanced your Christmas Greeting with a “Merry Christmas, the time to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” you would be favoring a religion which fair housing laws prohibit.
Using religious symbols or phrases could indicate an unlawful religious preference, but HUD has said that the use of secularized terms or symbols such as Santa Claus, or phrases like “Merry Christmas” don’t violate federal fair housing laws. So Santa and “Merry Christmas” are cool… but a manger scene, the Star in the sky, or other Biblical references should be avoided.
So How ‘Bout it! Do we say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”?
The politically correct answer is “Happy Holiday”. It is inclusive and can apply to most anyone except some ‘ole grump! Yet, a study a few years ago showed that the choice between the traditional “Merry Christmas” and the politically correct salutation is rooted in differences in ideology, age, geography, and gender.
A Public Religion Research Institute survey asked: “Do you think stores should greet customers with ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Seasons Greetings’ instead of ‘Merry Christmas’ out of respect for people of different faiths, or not?” It got some interesting results. 67% of Republicans said “No!” and 66% of Democrats said “Yes!”. Whoa! Is the gap all about politics?
Consider the Spirit of the Season
There is doubt that the Christmas holiday has been secularized and lost much of its original meaning. Yet, most Americans still see this as a season of giving, connecting, celebrating, and family. Let’s keep the truest form of the Spirit of Christmas by focusing on its core truths rather than the proper greeting. Be a joy to others. Seek to understand the people in your life that give you the biggest challenges. Make certain you are “right” with all your family. Make love your first response in all situations.
If you live the spirit of Christmas, you will know what greeting to use. As a conservative Christian, I would prefer to declare “Merry Christmas” to all. But considering my understanding of the deeper meaning of this holiday, I will choose inclusion. So I say… Happy Holiday to you!
And I’ll love you for whatever greeting you choose!