Every winter I’m surprised to see who comes out in defense of “Merry Christmas.” Specifically, who prefers it over “Happy Holidays.” This year, a Facebook meme helpfully summarized how many people feel.
Caveat: This is Not About Inclusivity
I do understand that some people are purposely excluding non-Christians. Personally, I’ve dealt with that all my life. But today, I don’t want to talk about them. I’m more interested in the people who legitimately feel that Merry Christmas is inclusive. They don’t understand why someone would want to change that.
Here’s my explanation: words have meanings. They have connotations and denotations. In other words, the phrase you use impacts the people you’re communicating with.
What does Happy Holidays Mean?
Words have meaning. Merry Christmas means “enjoy celebrating this specific holiday!” It’s like saying Happy Birthday, or Happy New Year, or Happy Hannukah. I wouldn’t wish you a Happy Birthday on a random Tuesday – it just wouldn’t make sense.
From a communication perspective, the difference between Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays isn’t about political correctness. It’s about common sense! If you’re not sure what holiday someone might celebrate, go for “Happy Holidays.” If you know they celebrate Christmas, go for Merry Christmas. And if it’s their birthday, then wish them a Happy Birthday.
Happy Holidays, Content Strategy Style!