The holidays are over… Well, at least people who usually say “Happy Holidays!” seem to have already stopped wishing people so. There are several things that happened during the December holiday season that really got me thinking. The debate about whether or not people should be saying, “Merry Christmas!” or “Happy Holidays!” continued in many households, especially households in which the tradition is to celebrate Christmas. I have had discussions with a variety of people who either felt offended if someone wished them “Happy Holidays!” when they celebrate Christmas, or felt offended if someone wished them “Merry Christmas!” and they did not celebrate Christmas.
But are either of these reactions defensible? I suspect, especially for libertarians, that they are not and here’s why:
1. You are free to celebrate the holidays you want to celebrate, so you should allow other people to celebrate the holidays they want to celebrate.
This seems like common sense, right? It goes along with the “Don’t tread on anyone” principle. You do you and I do me. You can celebrate Christmas, meanwhile somebody else can celebrate Hanukah, Kwanza, Festivus, and/or the New Year. It does not seem like you have the right to require everyone else around you to celebrate the same holiday(s) that you do.
2. In the United States, we have freedom of religion and expression.
Reason 1 and 2 are similar, but when you’re in doubt on whether or not you should feel offended by someone else wishing you a happy holiday that you may not celebrate, think back to the First Amendment. This amendment encourages all individuals to express and celebrate the religions that they want to celebrate. How can you be offended by someone else celebrating a holiday that they have the right to celebrate? They can wish you well about the holiday they celebrate, but it does not mean that you have to agree with it or act offended.
3. The “Holiday Season” can technically be anything from Halloween to Mardi Gras, which would include over 20 holidays.
Halloween is the first holiday that seems to get people to start thinking about the winter ahead. These days, you already see Christmas and winter decorations in Wal-Marts and Targets prior to Halloween. After Halloween comes Dia de los muertos, All Saints Day, Guy Fawkes Night, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, Bodhi Day, Advent, Saint Lucia’s Day, Hanukkah, Yule, Winter Solstice, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, The Epiphany, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, Mardi Gras, and a whole bunch of other holidays I am too ignorant to include (in no exact order, either). Although most individuals in the U.S. wish “Happy Holidays” in the month of December, it can technically expand further depending on which holidays people choose to celebrate. Therefore, if you feel offended when somebody says “Happy Holidays” anytime between Halloween and Mardi Gras, think to yourself, “Which holiday(s) do I usually celebrate during this time of year?” I’m sure you can come up with at least one or two, and feel a sense of joy because someone else wished you a good holiday.
4. Who Cares?
At the end of the day, does any of this actually matter? Institutional holiday preferences change all the time within cultures. Sometimes I think the “War Over Winter Holidays” takes away from any holiday spirit. Who cares what holidays I celebrate as long as I’m not imposing my beliefs on someone else? Who cares about what holidays you celebrate as long as other people are not imposing their holiday traditions onto you? Again, live and let live.
Now if you’re feeling offended that someone did not wish you a “Merry Christmas!” this year or specifically wished you a happy holiday that you don’t celebrate, it’s time to have civil discussions with others. Instead of feeling offended, I suggest we engage in personal conversations with each other about the holidays we individually choose to celebrate and why. Don’t force other people to celebrate the holidays you do, but explain to people why certain holidays are important to you. We all should be free to choose to celebrate holidays we value whether or not other people celebrate with us. Freedom of holiday choice is integral to a free society.