Last Updated: 17th December, 2018
As the festive season draws upon us, we start getting wishes from our friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors and acquaintances. One of the common greeting, 'Happy Holidays' is a collective season greeting for a cluster of festivals and celebrations like Christmas, Hanukkah and sometimes even Thanksgiving along with New Year. However, this special greeting is reserved only during the winters and is generally not used during other parts of the year.
'Happy Holidays' is all about celebration and spreading the joy, however, the phrase is also known for breeding a difference in opinion among people over its usage. Incidentally, some Christians prefer to be wished Merry Christmas in place of 'Happy Holidays'. They want to keep the spirit of Christ alive through the theme of 'Merry Christmas'. While others suggest that to include all the communities regardless of their culture, religion and faith, a religious neutral term like 'Happy Holidays' should be used during the time of festivities. However, the US, always chooses to adopt 'Happy Holidays' for the public face of Christmas celebration.
Merry Christmas and Happy holidays are decidedly different in their meaning. While Merry Christmas means to wish a person a joyful Christmas, 'Happy Holidays' greets one with happy prosperous holidays no matter what festival they celebrate. Also Merry Christmas mainly encompasses Christmas and its memories but 'Happy Holidays' focuses on all the year end celebrations: Hanukkah, Christmas and even New Year.
But, looking through a different point of view, 'Happy Holidays', which is considered a greeting that is friendly to all the communities, atheist and religious alike, some debate that both the terms have religious roots. While Christmas clearly invokes a religious sentiment as the day of Jesus Christ, 'Happy Holidays' too is researched to be related to religion. Holiday is derived from two English words, Holy and Day, so wishing someone 'Happy Holidays' means wishing for their days to be holy, which is religious in itself.
If you know the faith of the person, you can wish them accordingly, however, if you don't, sticking to 'Happy Holidays' seems a decent choice. The common denominator is that 'Happy Holidays' greeting is not a denigration of Christmas or any tradition and it is straightforwardly religious neutral. It is an appropriate salutation when you don't recognize someone's habits of observing the season or when you don't know someone enough.
This is also the reasons many stores have their welcoming notes as 'Happy Holidays' and not 'Merry Christmas' or greetings related to other traditions. This brings more people together and doesn't spread the anti-religion vibes. In addition, many schools and greeting card companies opt for the secular neologism of 'Happy Holidays'.
Note : If a federal holiday falls on a Saturday, it is usually observed on the preceding Friday. When the holiday falls on a Sunday, it is usually observed on the following Monday.