The Pitt News

‘Merry Christmas’ vs. ‘Happy Holidays’: The war worth having

By Eli Talbert / Columnist

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With finals upon on us, nothing seems more important than figuring out where to study or what exactly we need to score on a final to pass a class. 

Of course, this is not the only thing that matters in the month of December, compared to more pressing annual debates like whether or not we should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”

Your choice has dramatic implications. The former choice indicates that you are a backwards philistine, who is insensitive to other religions, while the latter marks you as a hapless conformist brainwashed by the liberal media.

On the surface, the debate seems irrational. Why would the choice schools, stores or people make to use “Merry Christmas” or the more politically correct “Happy Holidays” mean so much? 

The answer lies, as always, in the power of words. When you choose to utter the words “Merry Christmas,” you are secretly endorsing the Christian agenda. A Pew research study conducted last year found that 46 percent of Americans don’t care what seasonal greeting they receive, with 42 percent preferring Merry Christmas — but this is still a major issue.  

Just stop to consider the constitutional implications if public schools once again referred to the break traditionally starting in December as “Christmas Break.” Doubtlessly, this connotation would remind a Muslim or an atheist kid that they don’t have a holiday that involves spending excess amounts of money on material things. They’d convert to Christianity out of sheer despair.

Conversely, if everyone shifts to using “Happy Holidays,” how will we remember what holidays we are actually celebrating? Who’s to say that I am not simply lazy and am actually wishing you a Happy Easter, Hanukkah, Christmas and/or Fourth of July? Plus, consumers might begin to forget that Christmas is coming, despite department stores’ helpful displays of Christmas decorations that they put up immediately after Halloween. If the word Christmas becomes taboo, how will stores stay afloat?

Still, we do have to consider the psychological damage those who say “Merry Christmas” inflict on people who do not actually celebrate Christmas. They might feel negative emotions from the fact that someone stereotyped them as a celebrator of Christmas. While a Gallup poll in 2009 placed 93 percent of Americans as Christmas celebrators, it is simply unacceptable to stereotype the remaining 7 percent.      

This leaves us at an impasse. How will regular Americans decide if they are allowed to wish people a Merry Christmas if the media doesn’t take a clear stance on its political correctness? The answer is simple. Each side of the debate should use their preferred greeting and then complain whenever someone uses the other. Whoever complains the most and the loudest would win by sheer annoyance. This would not only be fair, but consistent with the American ideal that whoever has the most hurt feelings wins.

The dispute over “Merry Christmas” might not be as hard-hitting as the controversy over racial profiling by police and might not be as interesting as a debate over whether Superman or Batman would win in a fight, but it’s important. Whether the debate is framed as a freedom of speech issue, getting back to our Christian values or an issue of religious sensitivity, this controversy is the perfect example of why it is great that the media gets to control exposure of issues. 

So this Christmas — er, I mean, holiday — season, think long and hard about the C-word, and don’t forget to share your thoughts on Facebook.

Eli writes satire for The Pitt News, write him at ejt26@pitt.edu

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‘Merry Christmas’ vs. ‘Happy Holidays’: The war worth having