I love this time of year. Sometimes, I think I’d be perfectly happy if the year ran from October 30 to January 2 then started all over again. All of the celebrations and fun and joy that seem to happen at this time of year are simply unmatched the rest of the year, in my opinion.
However, this time of year can cause people a lot of angst when greeting others. In the United States, where we worry so much about being politically correct, we’ve moved to a greeting of “Happy Holidays,” hoping that we won’t offend anyone and that our blanket statement will cover any holiday that a person might celebrate. Now I personally like this greeting, because I think it’s more inclusive. I celebrate Christmas, so saying “Happy Holidays” instead of just randomly wishing someone “Merry Christmas” actually makes me think and realize that not everyone celebrates the same holidays I do. It allows me to avoid possible gaffes and embarrassing situations where I might wish someone the best for a holiday they don’t celebrate, which could unintentionally make them feel diminished or excluded.
Having said that, I also think we’ve gone overboard with it in some contexts in the US; that is, not calling things what they are in order not to offend. For instance, Christmas trees have turned into “holiday trees”. Other holidays celebrated at this time do not celebrate with decorated trees, so to call a Christmas tree a holiday tree is unnecessary, and maybe a little disingenuous. Although people from many backgrounds light candles this time of year, a menorah is a menorah and a kinara is a kinara, and neither are ”holiday candles”. We attend holiday parties at our places of work, but I’ve found those are often exclusively decorated with Christmas decorations, even though it’s called a holiday party. Minimizing all holidays to one big “Happy Holidays” can devalue the meaning of any one holiday. It can also seem like an attempt to disguise Christmas, which can leave both Christians and non-Christians feeling frustrated.
So, while I will wish people “Happy Holidays” if I’m addressing a group, or if I don’t know what holiday a person celebrates, I will also wish them a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, a Happy Solstice or a Joyous Kwanzaa, if I know what they celebrate. And if someone wishes me a happy something-other-than-Christmas, I will not be offended. After all, I believe the intent with wishes this time of year is always good.