Replacing “merry Christmas” with “happy hol­idays“
dis­re­gards the reason we cel­e­brate the holiday. |

Dear baristas, shop clerks, store greeters, and all other retail workers: please say “merry Christmas.”

Workers have become hyper­sen­sitive to reli­gious hol­idays, and in an effort to avoid offending someone, they have for­gotten how to have a human con­ver­sation. It’s more mean­ingful to con­clude with a per­sonal pleas­antry — which for most people in the United States is “merry Christmas” during the holiday season — rather than an imper­sonal, unspe­cific comment.

America is largely a Christian country. According to a 2019 Pew Research Poll, 65% of Amer­icans iden­tified as Christian, far sur­passing all other reli­gions. This means the majority of Amer­icans cel­e­brate Christmas. And according to a December 2017 Pew Research Poll, roughly 90% of Amer­icans cel­e­brate Christmas. It shouldn’t be con­tro­versial to hope that it is merry.

Many argue that because the United States pro­tects indi­viduals’ freedom of religion, the topic should be avoided alto­gether. That is not, however, what the Founders intended with the First Amendment. Con­gress begins its ses­sions with prayer, those on trial swear in with their right hand on the Bible, and paper money is printed with the expression “in God we trust.” The United States still has a clear con­nection to Chris­tianity.

Freedom of religion means the freedom to practice whatever faith one prefers. It pro­tects a per­son’s right to discuss his beliefs and cel­e­brate whatever hol­idays he chooses. It guar­antees every indi­vid­ual’s right to say “merry Christmas” instead of the neutral, non-reli­gious “happy hol­idays.”

We should, of course, respect others’ beliefs. But respect doesn’t imply not acknowl­edging one’s own faith. We don’t have to pretend as if we don’t cel­e­brate Christmas to avoid offending someone who doesn’t.

One of my childhood friends, Daniel, was the only Jewish student in my ele­mentary school class. Despite the fact that all the stu­dents and teachers were aware of this dif­ference, none of us felt even slightly offensive giving him gifts at Christmas time or reading stories about Santa Claus in class.

And Daniel enjoyed taking part in Christmas tra­di­tions. When my family and most others in our town sent out cards wishing everyone a merry Christmas with New Tes­tament Bible verses, we sent them to his family too. And they took part, sending us a “Merry Any­thing” card in the same style. Daniel came to our Christmas parties, and we went to his bar mitzvah. And I wasn’t offended when he danced the hora.

As a child, I never enter­tained the thought that Daniel might be offended by my Christmas fes­tiv­ities. Christmas was what I cel­e­brated and that was okay.

Amer­icans should be able to declare what they believe and live in unity with others who don’t believe the same things, as Daniel and I were able to do. One of the greatest threats facing the nation today is the fear of offending someone. People have lost touch with one another as they sub­stitute indi­vid­u­alized greetings for robotic, polit­i­cally-correct phrases.

I always aim to respect others’ beliefs, and I hope that they respect mine. I don’t say “merry Christmas” to offend anyone, but because I gen­uinely hope that they have a happy, healthy Christmas season, which I sin­cerely believe to be a holy time of year. I cel­e­brate Christmas because it is the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, and when I wish others “merry Christmas,” I’m wishing them the warmth and joy that I believe this holiday offers. When people say “happy hol­idays,” they merely wish that they enjoy the upcoming days.

Busi­nesses should encourage more per­sonal, mean­ingful con­ver­sation and bring a bit of humanity back into their employees’ and cus­tomers’ daily inter­ac­tions. According to a 2018 CNBC article, retailers made over $1 trillion throughout the Christmas season. While they blare Christmas music through their shops to encourage sales, it is a shame they reap the rewards while not admitting the reason.

I hope that retail workers wish cus­tomers well by declaring what they as indi­viduals cel­e­brate, which I largely suspect is Christmas. And cus­tomers should return the kind wishes with a jolly greeting of their own: happy Kwanzaa, happy Hanukkah, or merry Christmas.


Allison Schuster is a senior studying pol­itics.