Over the last several years, there has been ample debate about which holiday greeting should be used. Is it still acceptable to say “Merry Christmas”, or should one stick to the universally acceptable “Happy Holidays”? Winnipeg is a diverse city with many cultures that come together to celebrate their religious beliefs, customs, and traditions! In addition to Christmas, people may also be celebrating Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Some Winnipeggers may have celebrated holidays earlier in the year, such as Eid, and others may not be celebrating at all!
With so many holidays being celebrated during this time of year, however, I was curious to hear from my circle of friends and family about which holiday greeting they use. I polled my Instagram followers, who are predominantly in their mid-late 20s, and 31 of my followers voted on whether they prefer “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”. The 2 choices received 8 and 23 votes, respectively. Interestingly, one follower commented: “As a Jewish Girl, I don’t mind Merry Christmas. When someone says it to me, it’s always out of happiness/compassion and I say Merry Christmas right back, Happy holidays is lame [to me].”.
I also asked my wife, Jen, who is majoring in Women and Gender Studies at the University of Winnipeg, how she felt about using the two terms. She said, “I think “happy holidays” is the more inclusive way to greet someone during the season, however, the intention behind Merry Christmas is not usually to exclude people. But in the end, Christmas is a very eurocentric Christian tradition and “happy holidays” allows for the acknowledgment of the many people who don’t celebrate Christmas at this time of year.”
Relatedly, several articles have also been written about universal names for holiday decor. In 2013, the Huffington Post published an article stating that we should call seasonal aspects exactly what they are. For example, they said, call a pine tree that has been decorated as a Christmas tree a “Christmas tree” (not a “holiday tree”) and call a Menorah a “Menorah” (not a “holiday menorah”). They argued against forcing something to be inclusive by generalizing its name when we could simply call the things they are in reference to the celebrations they’re a part of and promote inclusivity through welcoming celebrations of various holidays.
Perhaps there is some merit in this idea of calling things as they are: Christmas carols, Pagan solstice rituals, Kwanzaa Lessons, Hanukkah songs, and all the other holidays that people are celebrating all at once with the idea of celebrating many traditions together.
At the same time, what about families that have come together from different cultures and religions? Perhaps one partner has grown up celebrating Christmas and the other hasn’t – might it be easier for them to agree to get a “holiday tree” than a “Christmas tree”? And really – what say should the public have in what people want to call their household items?
The main takeaway? Let’s not limit the celebrations to be solely Christmas-focused this year. Let’s use the holiday season to showcase the beautiful diversity of all who call Winnipeg home.
And as for the greeting? Perhaps it is more inclusive to offer a “happy holidays” if you don’t know what holiday, if any, someone celebrates. But make the effort to wish a Jewish friend or colleague that you know is celebrating Hanukkah a “Happy Hanukkah”, or if a friend is celebrating Kwanzaa, a “Happy Kwanzaa!”
There are also an array of activities that Manitobans can take part in during the holiday season. In addition to checking out The Canad Inns Winter Wonderland (at the Red River Exhibition grounds) or Christkindlemarkt (the German Christmas market at the Fort Garry mall), other holiday festivities include:
- A Kwanzaa celebration held by the Congress of Black Women of Manitoba on December 9th!
- A Community Chanukah Party at the Jewish Learning Centre on December 2nd!