As we approach the holidays, there is sure to be some controversy over whether one is to say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.”
Throughout this holiday season, there will be much debate over which phrase is more correct to use when greeting someone or simply wishing them a good holiday. The end of the year brings about Thanksgiving, Christmas, and many other holidays for those who have different cultures and religions.
Here in the south, it is more likely for someone to be greeted with a cheerful “Merry Christmas” rather than a “Happy Holidays.” Maybe it is just a southern thing, but as a kid, that is what I grew up hearing. As an adult, I have learned that there is a whole other world outside of Martin, Tennessee. There are many more religions, cultures, celebrations, and holidays around this time of year than just Thanksgiving and Christmas. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, you are going to hear “Merry Christmas,” and be frowned upon if you say “Happy Holidays.”
Here at the University of Tennessee at Martin, we are living in the Bible Belt of America, where there is a church on every corner and everyone is either Baptist or Methodist. This is not a bad thing, as everyone has their own beliefs instilled in them. However, this campus has such a diverse population with people coming from all over the world to study and learn as much as they can. Having many different cultures brings about many different religions and with those religions, their holidays. There is a much bigger world outside of Tennessee that many people do not realize is out there. Unfortunately, many people do not realize this and instantly become offended when there is something new thrust into their world of comfort.
It is our job as humans to be empathetic, caring, and accepting of those who do not celebrate the same holidays as we do. If someone greets you with a “Happy Holidays” instead of a “Merry Christmas,” do not correct them; instead thank them, be kind and return the greeting. It is not anyone’s place to judge and try to correct someone if they are of a different background than you are.
There are more than just Thanksgiving and Christmas this time of year. There is Hanukkah, Yom Kippur, Ashura, Bodhi Day, and many more. We as humans need to learn some empathy for those who have different religions and cultures than we as native Tennesseans do. That is what college is about. Yes, we come to learn and study so that we can graduate and move into a job in our field of choice, but we also come to make new friends and learn new things. Part of that is learning about the world around you and the cultures of those around you.
While someone may celebrate a different holiday than you, if they greet you, be kind, greet them back. Do not scorn or correct someone based on how they greet you this holiday season. Thank them and return the gesture. It does not matter what you celebrate, as long as you know that your celebration differs from those around you and you are kind to those around you who may celebrate something different.
This holiday season, do not spend it trying to correct those whose beliefs may differ from yours, instead be kind.