Last night Jason and I were at dinner and our waitress wrote “Happy Holidays” on our ticket. This action sparked a discussion about the meaning of “Happy Holidays.” Is it a term used because one doesn’t believe in Christmas (i.e. the celebration of the Savior’s birth) but yet they still want the Santa/present action or is it simply a blanket term used to encompass both Christmas and New Years since they are two holidays that make up the “season”? I suppose a third option would be that Happy Holidays is a generic term used to suffice for any holiday that one might choose to celebrate, such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.
“Seasons Greetings” is another sticky term. A few years ago, I got a lot of ribbing from friends about the use of Seasons Greetings on our annual Christmas letters, but to me there was no problem with the use of this phrase. It was not a substitute for Merry Christmas, which the letter said elsewhere. It was also not a an attempt at political correctness, given the fact that our letter clearly states the reason we celebrate at Christmas time, which is the birth of Jesus. I simply used the phrase in order to convey a sense of goodwill toward our friends and family during the “season” which I think of as the general month of December all the way until New Years. It is basically just a winter greeting.
Here is what Wikipedia has to say (which I looked up AFTER writing the above paragraphs) ….
In the United States, the collective phrase “Happy Holidays” is often used as a simple way to refer to all of the winter holidays, or to the three major American holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Advocates of the phrase view it as an inclusive and inoffensive phrase that does not give precedence to one religion or occasion. Critics view it as an insipid alternative to “Merry Christmas”, and view it as diminishing the role of Christianity in Christmas, or part of an alleged secular “War on Christmas“. Others consider the controversy to be itself hysterical.
“Season’s Greetings” is a greeting more commonly used as a motto on winter season greeting cards than as a spoken phrase. In addition to “Merry Christmas”, Victorian Christmas cards bore a variety of salutations, including “Compliments of the Season” and “Christmas Greetings.” By the late 19th century, “With the Season’s Greetings” or simply “The Season’s Greetings” began appearing. By the 1920s it had been shortened to “Season’s Greetings,” and has been a greeting card fixture ever since. Several White House Christmas cards, including U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower‘s 1955 card, have featured the phrase. A differing opinion states that this saying is much more neutral and avoids elevating any one “holy” day over another. It may even be used to be more inclusive of other winter holidays (such as Kwanzaa or Hanukkah), or to acknowledge the possibility that the sayer does not believe in anything holy, including “holy-days”.
The fact is that the meanings of words change. Maybe this is like reverse presentism or something? Applying past ideals to the present…I am sure there is a word for that. I was still thinking of the Victorian-inspired era of when Seasons Greetings was a general greeting for the winter season and the accepted holidays of the time, which were Christmas and New Years. Additionally, I have been operating on the basis that Happy Holidays still meant a combined greeting for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Obviously this is the case no longer. There are a number of words that have morphed meanings over the years and apparently the greetings Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings are two of those. Well, for those who know me well, rest assured I am not wishing to take “Christ out of Christmas” if I offer you a Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings. But, for strangers, I think I will stick with Merry Christmas, to ensure I won’t be thought of as a politically correct people pleaser.