• Megan Hernandez-Greene

The Importance of Saying “Happy Holidays”

Updated: Jul 30, 2020

For most people, it is the most wonderful time of the year. With that comes the common debate around how people should greet each other during the holiday season. The United States is diverse in many aspects, but we cannot deny that Christianity is the dominant religion that is associated with “Americaness”. Let’s face it, Christianity isn’t the only religion that has a presence in the U.S. that deserves respect. Therefore, Christmas is not the only holiday that will be celebrated. So I argue for you to greet those you don’t know with Happy Holidays that Merry Christmas if you are not sure their religious backgrounds. It’s a neutral term that minimizes uncomfortable interactions because one person is assuming the other celebrates the holiday. So, you may be asking, “what other holidays are being celebrated besides Christmas?” No worries, I got you covered. Below is a condensed list of some major holidays that occur around this time of year and a little description of their significance. I could not list all, but this is to demonstrate the diversity of celebrations among our society.


Chanukah (eng. Hanukkah) (Judaism)

Chanukah is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated for 8 days that remembers the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.” People celebrate Hanukkah by lighting their menorahs, spinning dreidels and eating delicious foods!

From my dear friend Rachel:

“I would say Chanukah is about the miracle that the Jewish people survived and were able to make 1 vile of oil last 8 days. We celebrate this miracle through light and lighting the menorah. It’s a time to celebrate light and being with those we love.”

Kwanzaa (Secularism)

Kwanzaa is a week long celebration to honor those of the African Diaspora’s ancestral roots. The holiday abides by Nguzo Saba (the seven principles): Umoja (Unity), Kujichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility), Ujamaa (Cooperative economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity), Imani (Faith). Each day of the festival is dedicated to a specific principle, marked by lighting a new candle on the kinara, a seven-branched candelabra.

Yule (Pagan)

Yule is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. It marks the beginning of winter. It is a festival historically observed by the Germanic people but is now popular among practicing pagans. Historically, it lasted 12 days celebrating the rebirth of the sun and giving rise to the custom of burning a Yule log. The log would burn throughout the night, then smolder for 12 days after before being ceremonially put out.

Bodhi Day (Buddhism)

Bodhi Day is the Buddhist holiday that celebrates the day when Siddhartha Gautama, attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree and became the Buddha (aka the “Awakened One.”)

Las Posadas (Christianity)

Las Posadas is a religious holiday celebrated by Latinx families in the U.S. and throughout Latin America from Dec.16-24th. It memorializes the the journey that Joseph and Mary made to Bethlehem in search of a safe refuge where Mary could give birth to Jesus. When they were unable to find lodging in Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary were forced to seek shelter in a stable, where Jesus Christ was born.

Pancha Ganapati (Hinduism)

Created by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami as an alternative to Christmas, Pancha Ganapati is a Hindu holiday celebrated from December 21 to 25. During this time, Hindus worship Lord Ganesha. Family members work to mend past mistakes and bring His blessings of joy and harmony into five realms of their life, a wider circle each day: family, friends, associates, culture and religion.

HumanLight (Humanism)

HumanLight is a humanist holiday that was created to celebrate and express the positive, secular, human values of reason, compassion, humanity and hope. HumanLight illuminates a positive, secular vision of a happy, just and peaceful future for our world, a future in which people can build by working together, drawing on the best of our human capacities.

Chalica (Unitarian Universalism)

Chalica is a week-long celebration based on Unitarian Universalist Principles .Each day, a chalice is lit and the day is spent reflecting on the meaning of that day’s principle and doing a good deed that honors that principle.


So, after reading this, I hope my reasoning for saying “Happy Holidays” can be understood. I am not saying to stop saying Merry Christmas to those you love, but if you are aware they are not Christian or you meet someone who you aren’t sure what they celebrate, it is safe and respectful to greet them with a neutral an inclusive season greeting!

Happy Holidays everyone!

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