Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? A Jew’s Opinion

Merry Christmas sign

Merry Christmas
Image courtesy of digitalart at

A debate has been raging which you may be following. The debate centers on whether it is more appropriate to say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.

Obviously, the politically correct answer is Happy Holidays.

After all, we live in a diverse society in a country that was founded on religious freedom.

Happy Holidays Sign

Happy Holidays
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

One of the reasons my grandparents and great grandparents came to America was to escape persecution that was based on religion alone. I feel very fortunate to be in America where I am free to practice my religion however I choose without fear of repercussions.

My background and feelings are not unique to me but are the story of many Americans.

So, diversity and appreciation for differences is one of the reasons I am most proud to be American.

Yet when it comes to the Happy Holidays vs. Merry Christmas debate, I do not have a strong opinion. In fact, while I would prefer people wish me Happy Holidays, I have no problem if someone wishes me a Merry Christmas.

After all, despite the diversity and melting pot that is America, according to numerous sources 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas.

And I am American.

Now, I have neither intention nor interest in celebrating Christmas (I will always be appreciative of receiving gifts, and I would be happy to provide you with a list). Similarly, I do not expect said people to celebrate Passover, Rosh Hashana or other Jewish Holidays.

Anyway, I don’t think wishing me a Merry Christmas is some sort of plot to convert, marginalize, or insult me.  I don’t think that wishing me a Merry Christmas shows a lack of respect for my holidays and religion. It is simply part of the vernacular at this time of year. It is no different from saying have a nice day, take care, all the best.

An article regarding Christmas appeared in the Washington Post. The article noted a study done by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service. It said, “And one in four American adults (26 percent), [say] Dec. 25 is simply a cultural holiday, not a religious holy day.” It seems that this trend toward viewing Christmas in a secular manner has grown over the past 10 years.

So, there is even less reason to feel offended should you receive the greeting Merry Christmas rather than Happy Holidays.

And really, if I was so bothered by the wish of Merry Christmas, what would that say about my feelings regarding my religious beliefs? I’d say it would mean I am either uncomfortable, defensive, or uncertain.

The reality is I am none of those things. And if I were so uncomfortable with my religion or my religious choices, I could change them. However, I am very content religiously.

For the record, I am a Jew, and I identify with those who consider themselves Modern Orthodox. I observe the Sabbath, follow the kosher dietary rules, and keep my head covered at all times (other than when I am teaching in a public school where I feel it is not appropriate).

So, go ahead. Wish me Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. Just wish me well. It’s all good.