Think Piece: Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas?

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Every year when Christmas begins to approach, discussions begin over the way we should celebrate the holidays amongst each other. Should we say Merry Christmas?

“But that might disrespect those religions that don’t celebrate Christmas!”

“So say happy holidays!”

Is saying Happy Holidays any better?

In this blog post we explore a little bit the history of Christmas and the argument of holidays vs. Christmas.

Origins of Christmas

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Before Christmas became Christmas, or the day that Christianity celebrates Jesus’ birth, there were many pagan (i.e. non-Christian) religions that celebrated the end/start of winter in some manner.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated the birth of the invincible sun god, appeased their mightiest gods and the gods of the harvest. They would feast from the Winter Solstice (21st December) for several days on. All social rules would fly out the window during this time.

When Christianity started becoming an accepted religion in the Roman Empire, Pope Julius I declared that the birth of Jesus should be celebrated on the 25th December. In this way, he satisfied Christian need to celebrate the birth of Jesus but also appeased the pagan believers. Now, Christmas is one of the biggest religious and commercial holidays – begun by Americans in 1870.

 

Holiday vs Christmas

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From November through to late January/early February, many different faiths and religions celebrate days of birth, new year, etc.

‘Happy Holidays’ is often considered a polite way to include all faiths and denominations in the festive spirit of December. It promotes respect and tolerance for and of all these faiths.

However even writing this blog I have been struggling to not say “festive spirit of Christmas”. Through commercialisation, December has become known as Christmas month. Commercialisation means that even if you want to buy something non-Christmassy, the card will still have the traditional Christmas red, green and gold colours, the majority of decorations to buy for homes will be themed with reindeers, wreath, and holly.

 

So what do you do? Since you can’t always tell by looking at someone what faith they practice, maybe it’s best to make a personal decision about this. If you feel better saying Happy Holidays do it! Prefer to say Merry Christmas? No problem!

 

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