It’s that time of the year again: Why “Happy Holidays”?

So once again we are into the winter holiday season, and once again the controversy continues regarding the use of “happy holidays” versus “merry Christmas”. Here’s a recap of the many posts I’ve made over the years on the topic:

Why this still comes up, year after year, is a mystery to me. In fact, this year my Facebook feeds have been flooded with this particular piece of digital dung:

A better way to say this is “It’s not Happy Holidays, it’s Merry Christmas if you are Christian.” From this christianwebsite.com article, 31% of the world’s 7.8 billion people identify as Christian. That means that 69% of the world’s population is not Christian and that 69% identifies with some other religion or worldview, whether a different theistic religion or a completely secular system of beliefs. It’s possible even some of that 31% don’t observe the current, modern, commercialized version of Christmas, and some of the other 69% observe the general “spirit of Christmas as an occasion of exchanging gifts and similar festivities, and go along with continuing to call it Christmas to avoid “making waves”. Indeed, the past posts where I discuss the so-called “war on Christmas” show just how volatile this situation has been in years past.

I think I said it best back in 2013, the last of the posts linked above (with a couple of potential errors which I will note below):

I usually say “Happy Holidays” and I do so to include everyone, whether they observe Yule, Litha, Christmas, Kwanzaa, HanukkahZarathosht Diso, Grav-Mass, Saturnalia, or something else entirely. To many non-Christians, “Merry Christmas” has about as much meaning as “Happy Yule” or “Io Saturnalia” does to Christians. Seriously, try wishing someone “Happy Yule” or “Io Saturnalia” and see how they react.

This, by the way, is nowhere near an exhaustive list. Indeed, the secular/atheist/humanist gathering I recently attended branded itself as a “winter solstice party” which is not on this list as such. (That particular party, by the way, was a great excuse to try a Moscow Mule, which is now my favorite cocktail at least for the moment.)

Regarding the apparent errors:

  1. Apparently the correct name/spelling of the Zoroastrian winter holiday is Zartosht No-Diso. I’m not sure where I got the original from.
  2. Litha perhaps shouldn’t be on this list as it is a midsummer festival, though perhaps it may be observed by pagans and others in December in the Southern Hemisphere (Australia, most of South America and Africa, etc). I have retained it for the moment with that note.

While it is still as of now a work in progress, the current version of what I intend to be a near-exhaustive list of late November to early January winter holidays reads as follows:

  • Christmas, Christians (including Protestant denominations and Catholics), December 25
  • Kwanzaa, African diaspora, December 26 – January 1
  • Hanukkah, Jewish, 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar (November/December)
  • St. Lucia’s Day, Sweden/Norway/Finland, December 13
  • Las Posadas, Mexican, December 16-24
  • St. Nicholas Day, northern Europe, December 6
  • Mardi Gras, January 6
  • Boxing Day, UK/Europe, December 26
  • Yule, Germanic pagan origin but observed by some modern pagans and LaVeyan Satanists, usually December 25
  • Grav-mass (Isaac Newton’s birthday), December 25
  • Yaldā Night/Chelle Night, Persian origin, Iran/Iraqi Kurdistan/Afghanistan/Azerbaijan/Turkiye, December 20, 21, or 22 (winter solstice)
  • Quaid-e-Azam’s Day/Jinnah’s Birthday, Pakistan, December 25 (may be observed alongside Christmas)
  • Chalica, Unitarian Universalists, seven days starting with the first Monday in December (some observe a seven-week variant starting in January)
  • Zartosht No-Diso, Zoroastrians, December 26
  • Litha, neo-pagans in the Southern Hemisphere, December 25 (unconfirmed)
  • Saturnalia, ancient Roman origins with modern observance unknown, December 17-23

There are undoubtedly others, and I look forward to finding new entries to this list for next year.

In closing, happy holidays and merry wishes to all. I am looking forward to an even better year in 2024.

Why I say “Happy Holidays”

While some may find this post offensive, my goals in writing this post did not include a deliberate attempt to offend. I wrote this post to establish my point of view, and also to enlighten those who may never have heard the truth about the history of the modern “Christmas” holiday.

With the coming of the winter holiday season, there’s been what seems like more than the usual controversy and flaming over the use of “Happy Holidays,” “Seasons Greetings,” and for that matter any holiday greeting besides “Merry Christmas” even though there are other cultures which celebrate other holidays. Maybe it just seems that way because of the fact Hanukkah and US-observed Thanksgiving happened to be the same day this year, which last happened in 1888 and won’t happen again until 2070 and 2165.

I usually say “Happy Holidays” and I do so to include everyone, whether they observe Yule, Litha, Christmas, Kwanzaa, HanukkahZarathosht Diso, Grav-Mass, Saturnalia, or something else entirely. To many non-Christians, “Merry Christmas” has about as much meaning as “Happy Yule” or “Io Saturnalia” does to Christians. Seriously, try wishing someone “Happy Yule” or “Io Saturnalia” and see how they react.

Perhaps the biggest surprise to everyone is that most so-called Christmas traditions actually trace their roots to other pagan or secular celebrations such as Saturnalia. Exchanging gifts was originally done as part of Saturnalia on December 23. There was also the Feast of Fools, the medieval successor to Saturnalia, celebrated at about the same time of year. The tradition of singing carols actually stems from Yule (which more or less coincides with Christmas at least in the Northern Hemisphere), a still-observed pagan winter holiday of gift-giving.

And finally it seems particularly odd to me, speaking as a non-Christian, that Christians would celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday on a day in the middle of winter when Jesus was more likely born in the spring. The most plausible reason is that the pagan and secular winter festivals occurring on or about December 25 were much more popular and thus more inviting targets to usurp. Of course, this didn’t stop the Christians from usurping Eostar in the spring and calling it Easter. But I’ll save that commentary for the appropriate season.

While the takeover of traditionally secular or pagan holidays by Christians is understandable, it makes the assertion that there is a “war on Christmas” that much more offensive to me. To me, it looks more like the real war has been fought by Christians for centuries on holidays observed by those of other faiths, changing the name and even being creative with history in the name of spreading the gospel. It’s an understandable tactic, but calling a horse’s tail a leg does not make it one, and so it is with the winter holidays.

Happy holidays, everyone. I have a few more recent events to weigh in on before the new year is upon us.