“Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” – which is more inclusive?
Tymmarah (Tymm) Mackie, MA
You’ve heard the debate over “Happy Holidays” and “Merry Christmas” – about not offending anyone; that “Happy Holidays” acknowledges other holy days or celebrations occurring around Christmastime, and is more inclusive.
Surprise! “Merry Christmas” is actually more inclusive. With regard to religion inclusion means increasing awareness of all holy days and celebrations happening in our community and recognizing them too.
Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey in 2011 revealed that just over 67% of Canadians identify as Christian, and 23.9% (almost one quarter) have no religious affiliation (atheist, agnostic, humanist, etc.). This is a 16.5% increase from 2001. That means only 9% of our population identify as Muslim (3.21%), Hindu (1.52%), Sikh(1.38%), Buddhist (1.12%), and Jewish (1%). Indigenous Spirituality makes up 0.2% and other religions (Bahá’í, Wicca, etc.) make up 0.4%. Those “other” 9% are “People in Your Neighbourhood” and they celebrate Eid, Diwali, Awakening Day, Vaisahki, Yom Kippur, Sundance, the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, and other holy days.
I’m not suggesting you say “Merry Christmas” because 67% is a majority. I’m saying it’s more inclusive – think “and”. Telling people they can’t use greetings that have been around forever only divides us and we don’t need more of that. Some Christians feel like they’re losing their rights, and all because someone thought it would be “nicer” to say “Happy Holidays”.
Newcomers understand that Canada is a predominantly Christian country, and many of them are Christian too. Most non-Christians (new or Canadian-born) do NOT expect Christians to change the way they do things on their behalf. It’s just nice, and inclusive, to acknowledge and join in other special days our coworkers and neighbours celebrate.
Christmas in Canada has become an extravaganza celebrated by almost everyone. People celebrate Christmas even if they’re not Christians. Atheists cook Christmas dinners and exchange Christmas gifts with me. I have Muslim friends who put up Christmas trees and send me Christmas cards. They also send me “Eid Mubarak” texts when they’re celebrating Eid and I send them back. That’s inclusion.
To be more inclusive, acknowledge a Jewish friend or colleague during Hanukkah by saying “Happy Hanukkah” or better yet, “Chag Chanukah Sameach”, and learn the difference between minor and major holy days in Judaism, because Hanukkah is a minor holiday. And, not all Christians celebrate Christmas. Let’s be respectful of that and let’s also hear more “Happy Diwali”, “Eid Mubarak” and “Chag Chanukah Sameach”.
Most people aren’t offended if you say “Merry Christmas” to them if they don’t celebrate it. If it bothers someone, apologize and make a note not to say “Merry Christmas” to them again. Let’s stop telling people they have to say “Happy Holidays” and can’t say “Merry Christmas”. It’s making things worse for all of us and doesn’t make sense.
Learn more about other faith communities’ celebrations. Order a 2021 Multifaith Calendar and Like/follow the Lethbridge Interfaith Network on Facebook.
Merry Christmas and best wishes for a wonderful and inclusive 2021.
Tymmarah (Tymm) Mackie is the Diversity and Inclusion Specialist at The City of Lethbridge.
Cell: 403-360-4967 | Email: Tymmarah.firstname.lastname@example.org | https://www.lethbridge.ca/City-Government/strategic-initiatives/Pages/Diversity-and-Inclusion.aspx