Flotsam and Jetsam

Merry – Whatever

Generic Winter Holiday Image
Photo by Brigitte Tohm from Pexels

It’s that time of year! Everyone starts paying attention to words. No, not in a grammar sense (wouldn’t that be amazing?). I’m talking about the narrow-eyed scrutiny of the phrase you choose to utter in public, bedeck your home with, and plaster on your social media feed. And whatever you decide to go with, it Will. Be. Wrong. (Aren’t the holidays so joyous?)

Welcome to the annual battle over Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays!

Watching the war unfold year after year makes my head ache. Mostly because no one comes up with a worthwhile new argument for their stance. (And the fact that it’s a stupid fight to make in the first place) I’ve done my research, and no one in the history of human civilization has spontaneously combusted when they heard the “wrong” phrase cast in their direction. True story. No matter how angry someone may get over hearing “Happy Holidays,” they don’t erupt into flames, break out in plague, or implode. The only result is an explosion of ill-written rhetoric on social media that attracts the interest of algorithm bots and trolls.

Boom! Long comment trails of people insulting religions, lineages, and even pets. Because of a choice between two possible word combinations.

And if you’re a freelance writer working for a client, you have to tread over that ice with the grace of a ballerina. Upsetting their readers isn’t going to lead to an extension of your contract (or, potentially, the delivery of your payment on schedule). If you’re juggling holiday-related content, you need to sit down and have a frank discussion over their position on the Merry Christmas/Happy Holiday debate. Because one wrong step? And your cement ballet slippers will carry you to the bottom of the lake.

Yup – it’s THAT serious an offense.

I know: it sounds trivial. But you’ve SEEN the flame wars. People take up torches and pitchforks for their “cause.” The position they hold over the matter supplants any other thoughts in the moment. And they’ll drop EVERYTHING to respond to a note. Attempting to apply to reason is asking for trouble. (Trust me on this one) You don’t want to entangle your client into one of these nightmares. So keeping their position, values, and branding in mind is critical. At least, if you want to avoid angry phone calls, Zoom meetings, and emails.

Personally, I’m tired of the whole thing. I say “Happy Holidays” for one very simple reason: I have friends and family that celebrate a range of events throughout November and December. Out of respect for their beliefs, I acknowledge the “holidays.” It’s that simple. I don’t hate Christmas. I have nothing against people that choose to say “Merry Christmas” (save those that break out the phrase in September). But I choose to encompass EVERYONE in my circle. Including me. (People don’t go around saying, “Blessed Midwinter” – have you noticed?)

Fighting over how to BE KIND to one another is a touch ridiculous. And the fact it crops up EVERY YEAR is wearing. Allow people to say what they wish.

“Merry Christmas?” Fine.

“Happy Holidays?” Okay. They’re NOT taking anything away from Christians.

“Hope Krampus doesn’t get you?” Fine, works for me.

Whatever you wish to use in the coming month, as long as you mean it from the heart, it’s acceptable. But if you’re writing holiday content for a CLIENT, check with them first. (They’re probably NOT going to sign off on the Krampus line)

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