- Donald Trump has vowed to rid America of the phrase “Happy holidays.”
- Polls show that most Americans don’t care whether people say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy holidays.”
- But to the few who are passionate about the issue, “Happy holidays” makes them feel their religion is being attacked.
There are two words that, when combined, President Donald Trump seems to hate more than any others in the English language.
Trump vowed during his presidential campaign to rid America of the generic holiday greeting, which he considers a form of political correctness gone awry, and replace it with his preferred “Merry Christmas.” The promise was central to his fight against the so-called war on Christmas.
But what is it about “Happy holidays” that is so offensive to some people to begin with?
For one, it’s worth noting that relatively few people are actually offended by holiday greetings, whether it’s happy holidays or merry Christmas. A Public Policy Polling survey from last year found that more than 80% of Americans didn’t care which one people said. And when it comes to how customers are greeted by stores, a full 52% of people said they didn’t care which greeting they received, according to a Pew Research Center poll released this week.
The groups most likely to care consisted of strong conservatives, Trump supporters, and men, the poll found. And to them, “Happy holidays” can sound like nails on a chalkboard.
Take a look at some of the things that have been written about the phrase over the years:
“Of course it’s a war on Christianity – or, more precisely, a war on the religious nature of America,” Dennis Prager of National Review wrote in 2015.
“This whole push to remove Christ from the Christmas season has gotten so ridiculous that it’s pathetic,” the CNN contributor Roland Martin wrote in 2007. “Because of all the politically correct idiots, we are being encouraged to stop saying ‘Merry Christmas’ for the more palatable ‘Happy Holidays.'”
“This intentional and deliberate exclusion of ‘Merry Christmas’ in the Federated Department Stores advertising and decorations is extremely offensive to the culture and tradition of Americans who honor and celebrate Christmas,” the mission statement for the Committee to Save Merry Christmas says.
On the other hand, some Christian leaders have advocated the more inclusive phrase, arguing that imposing people to wish others a merry Christmas is just another form of political correctness.
“Using their own logic, if saying ‘Happy Holidays’ is an intentional cultural displacement of Christianity, then insisting on ‘Merry Christmas’ is an intentional displacement of everyone else,” the Rev. J.C. Austin, the vice president for the Christian leadership formation at Auburn Seminary, wrote last year.
“If ending political correctness means having the freedom to speak one’s mind, then it seems odd that its proponents would insist on what others must say.”