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Con: 'Happy Holidays' includes more people, their observances

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Dec. 11, 2011 at 6:11 a.m.
Updated Dec. 12, 2011 at 6:12 a.m.


Supporters of the expression "Happy Holidays" point out that the holiday season from November to January isn't exclusive to Christmas.

In addition to Christmas, the Jewish faith observes Hanukkah, African-American families may observe Kwanzaa, Muslims may observe Muharram, and some international cultures observe variations of Winter Solstice festivals. Still others may celebrate none at all.

"I think people need to be careful when they say 'Merry Christmas' because you're assuming that the other person is Christian or celebrates Christmas," said Jennifer Nichols, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations' southwest district director for lifespan faith development in Fort Worth. "But that's not always true."

Nichols also points out that many of the traditions of Christmas - such as the Yule log, Christmas tree, mistletoe, holly wreaths and even the celebration date of Christmas - are linked to pre-Christian pagan traditions and are not directly tied with Christianity.

Nichols said she prefers "Happy Holidays" because everyone's faith - and even non-believers - are represented in a universal greeting.

"I'm not offended by 'Merry Christmas,' but when someone greets me that way, I'll usually just respond, "Happy Holidays."

As a follower of the Unitarian Universalist faith - which agrees and supports a comprehensive religious formation extracted from all world religions - Nichols said she believes Christmas shouldn't dominate the holiday season, or be seen as the most important over other holidays.

Kirsten Bokenkamp, Houston-based communications coordinator for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said the ACLU supports the use of both "Happy Holidays" and "Merry Christmas" equally, as long as the government does not force one expression over the other.

"The ACLU of Texas believes that every individual should be able to say whatever holiday greeting is appropriate according to their beliefs. . Our concern is that the government does not force anybody to say a greeting that they are uncomfortable with, or restrict somebody from saying 'Merry Christmas' if that is that person's greeting of choice," Bokenkamp said.

Bokenkamp points out that the ACLU supports First Amendment rights for any and all to express their religious beliefs.

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