I am always slightly amused, and extremely baffled, by the furor that starts every year about this time over what to say when you greet people for the holidays. Once again, the Christian sect is up in arms over seeing the phrase "Happy Holidays" being used almost everywhere you go. They want the "Christ" put back in Christmas. "Jesus is the reason for the season" and the like. I can always relate to someone wanting respect for their beliefs, but there's one glaring thing wrong with this sentiment.
Christmas isn't the only holiday being celebrated around this time of the year.
In Judaism, Hannukah is coming up. Muslims celebrated Ashura on December 5th. Kwanzaa is right around the corner for those who recognize it. There are a lot of things going on for a lot of people of differing beliefs in this month and Christmas is but one of them.
Judaism predates Christianity by over two thousand years. Jews have been celebrating Hannukah for a lot longer than Christians have been celebrating Christmas or Muslims have been honoring Ashura. Yet you don't hear Jewish people demanding that their December holiday be put above the rest. In fact, I've never met a Jewish person who didn't respect Christmas as something as important to Christians as Hannukah is to them. Yet they're not getting the same reciprocation. The reason they aren't up in arms about it is because they do have that respect for the beliefs of other people.
Another thing I don't think most Christians realize is that the date of December 25th was not chosen out of the blue. In Ancient Rome, there were already other celebrations taking place on this date. They celebrated the "Birth of the Unconquered Sun," the birth of the god Dionysus, and the birthday of Mithras, a pagan god from the Middle East. December 25th was appropriated by the Christian church of that time for the reason that there was already festivities going on and the early Christians were trying to convert their contemporaries away from the worship of gods that had originated in Ancient Greece and elsewhere.
No one really knows the exact date of the birth of Jesus; most scholars agree that it was in the spring. So without a solid date on which to base the honoring of Jesus' birth, the early Christian leaders chose December 25th as a way to further eradicate the meaning behind the pagan festivals of the time by usurping it in a sense.
It's also worthy to note that a lot of early Christian leaders were opposed to having a holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the first place. They felt that this was too pagan and shouldn't be a part of the Christian practice of worship.
History aside, the uproar over what to say at this time of year is something akin to intolerance in my opinion. By ignoring the fact that more than one holiday is celebrated in December, Christians are promoting what amounts to prejudice and they are not following the example of Jesus that is portrayed in the New Testament. Jesus went from place to place, preaching and speaking his message to the people in his world, and those who wanted to follow him did, while those who didn't went on about their lives as usual. Jesus never tried to force anybody to accept him. He left it up to the individual. He got it right.
Which greeting do I use to deal with the conundrum over how to greet people this time of year? I base it on the person I'm greeting. I say "Merry Christmas" to those who I know observe Christmas. To my Jewish friends, I say "Happy Hannukah." To those who I know are recognizing Kwanzaa, I say "Happy Kwanzaa." If I am unsure about the person's choice, I say "Happy Holidays," because I don't want to offend them by wishing them something that may not be their cup of tea.
It's all about respect. It's all about tolerance. It's all about sharing this world with people who don't have to and are not going to believe the same things when it comes to faith and religion. I expect people to give me the common courtesy of doing my thing. So why should I not return the gesture? Why should anyone not? Nobody should. It's just not right and it's not a good example for others.