We’re getting to that time of year where instead of hearing “Merry Christmas” we’ll hear “Happy Holidays.” When I tell people, I prefer to be wished a “Merry Christmas” the onus is put on me because it’s my problem I was (as they say) offended. What I want to explain to them is that there is a reason for the season, that a baby born years ago in a stable would save people from their sins and that, yes, at the very moment of his holy birth was God putting his plan of salvation into action. Can I go so far as to show that the Hanukkah story doesn’t even exist in the Protestant Bible since Maccabees is not included? Am I really a grinch for refusing to believe that holidays such as Kwanzaa or Hanukkah have the same meaning to the people who celebrate them? Do I dare point out that Hanukkah, lovely as it is, does not have the same level of importance as to most Jews I know as Passover does? How can I defend my position and still be polite, or has it really come down to having to accept “Happy Holidays”?
Who is this who is wishing you “Happy Holidays”? Your boss? Co-workers? Friends? Family? The supermarket check-out clerk? This matters because you need to tailor your response to the situation. Lecturing your boss or co-workers, or holding up the check-out line, or denigrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa to friends and family is going to be perceived by them to be far more offensive than any feeling of insult you have experienced. Unless you happen to find yourself in the midst of a speculative conversation on the secularization of culture and are able to take a turn at bat, or unless you have a blog and want to write an article explaining your feelings to your readership, it really is best to respond to “Happy Holidays” with a smile, a thank-you, and a return greeting. If you can do so without sounding sarcastic, you might make your return greeting a joyful “Merry Christmas!”