Many years ago, way back when I was in high school, I remember talking with my neighbor, Sarah, in the hallway on the last day of school before winter break. A friend of hers walked by, and Sarah called out “Happy Hanukkah, Jenn!” With a smile and a wave, Jenn yelled back “Happy Hanukkah to you, too!” This clearly confused Sarah, because she got a puzzled look on her face and said “But I’m not Jewish.”
Over the past few years there has been a lot of conversation about how people offer their good wishes during the holiday season; discussions have become quite heated as people argue their faith and beliefs. I have recently even read about individuals attempting to shame others into going along with one saying or another by asking if they are “afraid” to use it!
We live in a society that is more religiously and culturally diverse than ever before, along with an increasing population that is not affiliated with any religious tradition. Rather than dwelling on the specific phrase, why not focus on the message behind the expression? Consider these words, all used in various holiday greetings: happy, merry, greetings, joyous, enjoy. I don’t see an offensive one in the bunch, personally.
If you know of a person’s beliefs or preferences, customizing your greeting to reflect them is a way to acknowledge their traditions as you wish them well. Just as you would not say “Happy Birthday” to yourself, recognizing what is important to the other person is what matters.
For all other situations, choose whichever greeting feels most natural and meaningful to you; let your smile reflect your sincerity. Should you receive a greeting that does not follow your traditions, don’t do what my neighbor Sarah did – smile, say thank you, and wish the same in return.
It is always the thought that counts.
Whether you prefer Merry Christmas, Ramadan Mubarak, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Noel, Happy Holidays, Yule Greetings, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice, or Happy Festivus (and please forgive me if I have inadvertently forgotten anyone), I wish you a warm, peaceful and joyous season.