The debate about which phrase should be used around holidays should be over


Natasa Harshman

A photo of my older sister and me on Orthodox Easter many years ago

With Easter in the rearview mirror, I have finally escaped the awkward greetings that come alongside religious holidays. Each time I heard “Happy Easter!” on Apr. 17th, I smiled awkwardly and nodded, saying “Yeah, you too!” as my response, unless the person was close enough to have a conversation with.

I have never celebrated Easter on the date that the majority of people in my community do; as an Orthodox Christian, I celebrate Easter on a date one week later than the majority of people of other Christian religions. Obviously, Christianity is the most popular religion in the U.S., making up about 65% of adults according to a study conducted in 2020 by the Pew Research Center. For this reason, I wouldn’t ever call myself a religious minority; I am still a Christian, and almost every other religious holiday that I celebrate falls on the same date that the majority of Americans celebrate. 

However, I still feel a twinge of discomfort when someone wishes for me to enjoy a holiday that I don’t celebrate, even if I’m not offended. On the flip side, only people who are close to me wish me a Happy Easter on the day that I celebrate the holiday. This is no surprise at all. It makes sense for people to wish everyone the most common holiday for the time frame. Despite this, a simple rewording would extend to include the vast majority of religions: “Happy Holidays.” This aids in making religious minorities feel more represented because even though they are not the most populous in the country, they matter the same amount and deserve to be recognized in the same manner.

The opposing argument to using “Happy Holidays” rather than naming a specific holiday is “What happened to Merry Christmas?” 

Here’s the thing: nobody is getting rid of Christmas. Nobody is preventing anyone from wishing others a Merry Christmas. Nobody is against the celebration of the Dec. 25th holiday. “Happy Holidays” is a great substitute when you don’t know whether or not somebody celebrates Christmas or not, or when speaking to a large group of people because it includes so many holidays, one of those being Christmas.

Of course, when speaking to a particular person who you know celebrates a certain holiday or is of a certain religion, it is completely appropriate to wish them goodwill on the specific holiday.

Another claim used to refute the use of “Happy Holidays” in place of a specific religious holiday is that it is being used to erase Christianity and the holidays that are celebrated primarily by this religion. 

On the contrary, the phrase “Happy Holidays” is doing the exact opposite of what opponents are claiming it does; rather than erasing religion, it includes many.”

On the contrary, the phrase “Happy Holidays” is doing the exact opposite of what opponents are claiming it does; rather than erasing religion, it includes many. Religion is an important part of society for many, and different cultures should be able to express their religion and be recognized on the holidays. It is much easier to wish a group “Happy Holidays” rather than pointing out each religion, but is also far more inclusive than “Merry Christmas.” 

According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2019, 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas regardless of if they think of the holiday as a religious event or a family gathering. Despite this fact, it doesn’t render the other 7% any less important than the 93%.

Although I’m not a religious minority, I’ve had my fair share of uncomfortable encounters with people wishing me a good time for a holiday that I don’t celebrate. I can only imagine how people of other religions feel when they constantly are being smothered with such comments. “Merry Christmas” has never been offensive; however, humanity is far too advanced to overlook other religions and holidays during each season.