University of Central Florida professor Terri Fine wants Americans to stop wishing each other “Merry Christmas” and begin using the more inclusive “Happy Federal Holiday” instead.
In a Wedneday column on the UCF website titled “A Holiday Greeting That Applies to Everyone,” Fine argues that “Happy Federal Holiday” is a more inclusive holiday greeting than saying “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Chanukah,” or even “Happy Holidays.”
Part of the problem, Dr. Fine explains, is that “People wish each other ‘Merry Christmas’ whether they know the other person’s religious background or not,” even though Christmas occurs around the same time frame as Hanukkah (which Fine refers to as “Chanukah”). Simply saying both “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Chanukah,” Fine argues, isn’t appropriate because “Christmas is one of the two holiest days for Christians, while Chanukah is a minor holiday on the calendar.”
Using both greetings, Fine says, is insulting to both Christians—by implying Christmas is a minor holiday—and Jews—by denying “the holiness associated with the major Jewish holy days and festivals.”
Simply saying “Happy Holidays,” Fine says, also isn’t “culturally sensitive” enough.
“[I]t is the non-specificity of ‘Happy Holidays’ that makes it inappropriate because it fails to recognize the importance of Christmas to Christians while it also suggests that Chanukah should be more important to Jews than the high holidays and festivals that come at other times during the year,” Fine claims.
The most inclusive greeting, according to Fine, is for Americans to wish each other a “Happy Federal Holiday.”
“Because the U.S. government in some cases and the state government in others have identified certain days during the year as state and federal holidays, including those that fall during the late fall and winter season – Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day –we have no choice but to observe these holidays whether we want to or not,” Fine explains.
Fine goes on to celebrate the fact that “Happy Federal Holiday” can be used all throughout the year and not just during “Holiday Season.”
Another upside of replacing “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Federal Holiday,” she argues, is that “Most everyone is included and no one is excluded no matter their religious beliefs or practices.”
“As long as we live in the United States, these federal and state holidays impact us equally so we might as well celebrate them equally, too,” Fine says. And because “Happy Federal Holiday” doesn’t hold any real meaning, Fine argues, Americans can be sure to avoid being “culturally insensitive.”
“We know that we are not being culturally insensitive by extending to someone a holiday greeting that has no meaning to them because they practice a different religion or no religion at all,” she writes.
Dr. Fine concludes by arguing that replacing “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Federal Holiday” will give Americans the opportunity to “learn about each other’s religious and cultural beliefs and practices because we will not treat people as if we already know what those beliefs and practices are.”
According to the UCF website, Dr. Fine is a professor of political science whose research interests include women and politics, public opinion and voting behavior, and political methodology. She’s also affiliated with the Department of Women’s Studies.