Paula Rosenberg Freelance Writer: Online Portfolio

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Viewshound Personal Essay: Happy Holidays

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Here is my essay about the holidays that appeared in the Real Life section of Viewshound.

Viewshound Holiday Essay

(Please note Viewshound’s website was closed in January of 2012, the link no longer works, but you can read the article as it appeared below)

Why is it wrong to say Happy Holidays?

Last year someone actually yelled at me for saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. What’s wrong with trying to be inclusive, isn’t that the spirit of the season?

By Paula Rosenberg – Saturday 03 Dec 2011


Last December I was visiting my family in Ohio. My sister and I were running errands at a local grocery store. After the cashier handed me my change I wished her happy holidays. The way her eyes bugged out you would have thought I’d flipped her the bird instead of offering salutations. “Excuse me,” she said in a less than pleasant tone, “I think you meant to say Merry Christmas!”

I didn’t know what to say. Was I really being chided for being courteous and friendly? I just stood there with my jaw wide open, until my sister grabbed me and started leading me out the store’s exit. She knew that my normal bubbly demeanor was about to boil over. I thought I was being polite by not presuming this woman’s religious affiliation, but apparently to her my, “Happy Holidays,” was interpreted as a “Bah Humbug”.

Perhaps I’d become too accustomed to living in a place as diverse as NYC. I couldn’t image anyone in the city correcting someone for saying, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Chanukah,” “Happy Kwanzaa,” or “Enjoy Winter Solstice.” Was my greeting no longer appropriate in Middle America? I confessed to my sister that I had less of a desire to leave the island of Manhattan during the holidays if judgment and scrutiny from complete strangers is what I had to look forward to in the heartland.

My altercation with the clerk in the grocery store was the most uncomfortable, but unfortunately not the only negative reaction to my holiday greeting during my trip. These other incidents ranged from the other person rolling of his or her eyes to being told on a couple of occasions that it was okay to say Merry Christmas.

“Happy Holidays” is the greeting I’ve offered strangers since childhood. I grew up in an interfaith household, my mom celebrated Christmas and my dad observed Chanukah. I never wanted to assume what, if any holiday a person celebrates during this time of year and always thought that “Happy Holidays” was the most inclusive wish to offer.

When I was back in the Midwest last winter I saw countless signs and bumper stickers that said, “Its okay to wish me Merry Christmas”. I guess I don’t fully understand what is so offensive about saying, “Happy Holidays”. Is there anything rude about that term? I don’t feel that saying it takes any religious meaning away from Christmas, if that is the fear. Isn’t being inclusive and welcoming to everyone in keeping with the spirit of the season?

People wish me “Merry Christmas” all the time and I don’t find it offensive, even though I don’t celebrate that holiday. If someone prefers to say “Merry Christmas” that is his or her prerogative, but I do have a problem with being belittled for wishing someone “Happy Holidays.” People do not use the term out of malice. Take the good wishes for what they are as you celebrate with your friends and family this season.

Article category: Real Life
Article tags: Kwanzaa, Chanukah, christmas, happy holidays
Disclaimer: the views of the author are not those of ViewsHound or Publisha Limited.
Copyright © Paula Rosenberg, all rights reserved. License this in the Content Store.

Written by paularosenberg

December 5, 2011 at 4:37 pm

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