Happy Holidays?

During Christmas time it is not uncommon to hear phrase Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Of course, many people still say Merry Christmas. I prefer Merry Christmas and will even reply as such when people say Happy Holidays to me. Depending on the worldview there are people who not only prefer one phrase to the other, but are offended when his or her particular holiday greeting is not used.

In recent years, some large department stores moved away from using the term Christmas to using Holiday instead. This move upset many Christians who complained to those stores. Many of those stores decided to go back to using Christmas in their advertising. However, no matter what description a store uses for the Christmas holiday season, it does not move that store any closer to being a Christian organization.

Department stores that use verbiage to avoid negative press and make the majority of their customers happy may find themselves in a tough spot. Depending on one’s perception of a store’s advertisements said store may be charged with using Christmas to sell products. Of course, the goal of advertising is to sell products regardless of the time of year. Stores will not be able to please everyone with their ads.

Yet the official American holiday is Christmas.

In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed a law officially declaring Christmas a U.S. Federal holiday. One might ask just what was meant by Christmas in 1870. The 1828 dictionary definition was as follows.

The festival of the Christian church observed annually on the 25th day of December, in memory of the birth of Christ, and celebrated by a particular church service. The festival includes twelve days.1

Years later, in 1913, Christmas was defined as:

An annual church festival (December 25) and in some States a legal holiday, in memory of the birth of Christ, often celebrated by a particular church service, and also by special gifts, greetings, and hospitality.2

The legal U.S. holiday is Christmas which is the celebration of the birth of Christ just a Christians say. Christmas is still in the U.S. Code along with the Federal holidays – Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving Day.3 I am unaware of any other holiday besides Christmas where people try to change the name to something more general in opposition to the actual name of the holiday. Imagine if people tried to change the name of MLK day, Memorial Day, Independence Day or Veterans Day. Considering that Christmas is the official U.S. holiday, etc. one might argue that Merry Christmas is the most acceptable phrase since that is the actual holiday which is observed.

Does this mean Christians should only accept Merry Christmas and reject and protest all other holiday expressions?

There is no doubt that Jesus is the reason for the season for Christians. Is He the reason for non-Christians as well? Observing Christmas as an official Federal holiday in some fashion is not the same as celebrating the birth of Jesus. There are people who do not think much of MLK day or Columbus day, but will take the day off of work. So it should not be surprising that people will take a day off of work, give and receive presents, put up a tree or say Merry Christmas; none of which have anything to do with celebrating the birth of Jesus. A Christian doing those things to the glory of God in memory of Jesus’ death is another story, however.

Yet Christmas is still about Jesus!

Yes, Christmas is still about Jesus for the Christian. A nonbiblical Jesus without the gospel is no Jesus at all. Christians may continue to say Merry Christmas during this season regardless of what others say in response. Christians should expect that non-Christians are offended by Jesus and His gospel (1 Cor. 1:23; 1 Peter 2:8). If the situation allows, use your Merry Christmas as an opportunity to joyfully, not angrily, share the gospel. The unbeliever’s mind is not going to be changed without the gospel because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:18).

So don’t have a gospel-less Christmas, but have a merry one by displaying effect of the gospel provided by the fruit of the Spirit which is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23 ESV).

Merry Christmas!


Let's connect!

tagged as , , , in apologetics,Culture

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Squirrel December 23, 2011 at 9:44 am

Honestly, I’ve always seen this as “a tempest in a teapot.” It is pure reactionary thinking. “Holidays” is short for “holy days” so…

Anyway, Seasons Greetings. Ciao.


2 Al Rommal December 23, 2011 at 9:49 am

You are right about the world always being offended by Christ and the gospel. This is its natural response to something (truly) spiritual. Christ is ““A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.” We would too apart from the grace of God.” (1 Peter 2:8)

The world’s use of the expression “Merry Christmas” is quite strange when you think about it, because it conflicts with its natural response to God (1 Cor 2:14) It must and can only be merely a cultural exchange. Therefore we need not get too excited but instead, as you rightly say, consider it an opportunity to share the gospel.

3 Chris @ PrayBuddy.com December 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm

“Ironically, whatever description a store uses for the Christmas holiday season does not move that store even an inch closer to being a Christian organization nor one that supports the Christian worldview.”

This is very true! Never really thought of it that way before. I get a little peeved when I hear people say “Happy Holidays!” But then again, Christmas and New Years fall very close together, so I guess it’s acceptable to shorten “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year” to simply “Happy Holidays”.

4 Scott F Oakland December 23, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Good post. When will the culture warriors learn that putting Christmas on the lips of unbelievers gets them no closer to seeing the kingdom of God. It may make us more comfortable but does no eternal good, and the culture is no more Christian than when stores were saying Happy Holidays. Notwithstanding my good friends who insist that fighting the culture wars is our primary objective, I am less than enthralled with the project.

5 Mark December 23, 2011 at 11:21 pm

I appreciate the kind comments, folks. I’ve been away all day and I made a few grammatical edits. That’s what I get for writing early in the morning in a rush. Sorry, Chris, the sentence you quoted has been slightly changed. 🙂


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