Today I’d like to touch on the whole “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” debate that people are getting way too incensed over. As his last campaign statement ‘Strong’ illustrates quite disturbingly, Rick Perry seems to take issue with the latter, as do a lot of other [predominately Christian] people in this country. He and everyone else like him seems to be missing the point, though, behind “Happy Holidays.”
For stores everywhere, winter means Christmas. That’s because, as journalist Jodie Allen also suggests, Christmas has been commercialized to such an extent that other holidays, such as Hannukah or Kwanzaa and so on, get shunted to the metaphorical corner of the stockroom. The fact that not everyone celebrates Christmas, or even wants to, may sound like blasphemy to Rick Perry, but for most everyone else, guess what? We’re pretty apathetic.
There is only a small percentage of the population left who cares about whether or not people say Merry Christmas. And they are, according to Allen,
Seniors (those ages 65 and older) strongly prefer Merry Christmas (64 percent) but the youngest Americans (18-29) are much more likely to say it does not matter (59 percent). Politically, Republicans are the biggest advocates of Merry Christmas (62 percent), while nearly half (49 percent) of Democrats and a small majority (52 percent) of independents are unconcerned by stores’ choice of holiday greetings.
So really the issue is one of equilibrium, that all holidays (not just Christmas) are represented commercially. The truth is, (and I can’t believe I feel the need to say this) people can and should celebrate whatever they want to celebrate, and they should do it without the added burden of things they need not being available because of an Anglo-dominated holiday industry.
The cartoon featured in this post is not the reality of this situation. Thus, this debate is also a matter of poor communication, people speculating from data they simply do not have and making conclusions about the psychological intentions of people they don’t know, let alone interact with. When people say “Happy Holidays” they’re not saying that Christmas sucks, or that Christmas “shouldn’t be celebrated in schools.” They’re saying that this is a time to celebrate all holidays, not just Christmas, and everyone should ideally be okay with that. Most already are. If they aren’t, there are clearly deeper social issues at hand (i.e. bigotry, elitism, and so on.) The point, I think, is about having options. To feel entitled to a celebration that satisfies personal beliefs and culture. People who don’t celebrate Christmas deserve having their options become part of the mainstream understanding of what this season might signify.
My vote? Normalize “Happy Holidays,” that way everyone wins. But despite my knowledge that people do, for the most part, agree with me I can’t help but whine, “can’t we all just get along?”