The world has a lot of problems and it blows my mind that every year year we see a barrage of content being created talking about the difference between “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas” instead of focusing on… you know… things that matter. But here I am, adding to the list of people writing about it – because I think it's important for those new to the US to understand.
Where I'm originally from, the holiday season of December is dominated by Christmas – so for my entire life I've said “Merry Christmas” to friends, clients, and people on the street as I walk by. This was always considered fairly reasonable and I was never met with an issue (to my knowledge) – however I realize now that's because I lived in a bubble! I wasn't nearly aware enough of what other countries and cultures celebrate until moving to the US (and more specifically, New York City).
Since moving to the US, I've become much more aware of what goes on outside of Christmas during the holiday season of November/December/January, and at the same time I've ramped up my love for Christmas and the holidays – both of which are completely fine!
Why do I care?
I care because I think that moving to a new country includes some element of adapting to cultural norms, and that countries with new arrivals should, wherever possible, include some of the important norms of new arrivals as well.
There are lots of things we could be doing, some much more difficult than others, so if there are small wins here and there then we should take them. One of those is being inclusive with our language. It takes so little to be inclusive, and costs you nothing.
Wishing someone “Happy Holidays” as opposed to “Merry Christmas” means the person receiving your well-wishes feels acknowledged if they don't celebrate Christmas, and gets a dose of the feel-goods all at the same time. The tiny alteration you made in your words can actually have a huge impact on someone – which is probably why you're wishing them anything at all in the first place, because you know that.
What this tiny change doesn't mean
It doesn't mean anyone thinks any less of Christmas.
I love wearing a Christmas hat throughout the holidays, as I think it's bright and festive and a bit of fun to bring a pom pom into my daily repertoire – and nobody is saying I shouldn't do that. You can embrace whatever you want, that's exactly the point. If you feel strongly about something, then feel free to make your whole adventure about it, but you can do that while being accepting of those around you.
It takes way too much energy to be upset or angry about things, and is much easier if we're all at least trying to meet in the middle. There's plenty more we could all be doing, but perfection is the enemy of progress and something is better than nothing.
Stick to the spirit
The vast majority of the holiday season revolves around the celebration and unity of people, and whether you're religious or not, you can still accept the fact that many are. Embrace it, and ride the high of the fact that so many people around you are in a good mood.
Focus on the excitement of those around you, and absorb it, because half the fun of living in a diverse, new, and exciting place, is the fact that it's just a little bit different from what you're used to. Ask questions, be politely curious, and you'll find that most people are incredibly excited to share their story with you, too.
So what should you do?
Let's be the inclusive community. Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Yule, Feast Day, Bodhi Day, New Years, something else, or nothing at all, you're included in my well-wishes.
See, it was easy.