Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

Merry Christmas! Christmas is here. Just look around! In fact, in many places, you have probably seen the commercial hints at Christmas since just after Halloween! Each year it begins earlier and earlier. It used to be that you did not see decorations or hear Christmas carols until after Thanksgiving. Now you can observe both much earlier.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

If you are a Christian, you have likely been involved in the debate over whether you should say, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” If you are a Christian business leader, then you may have faced this issue with your customers as well.

Before you get your feathers ruffled either way, please know that I am not judging anyone on either side of the debate. I am not going to fight with someone over this any more than I would over red or green carpet in the church sanctuary. You can have your opinion and I will respect it. As long as you have thought it out and have your reasons, I respect your position.

Christian ministryIn fact, this post is NOT about the debate. I am NOT telling you to say, “Merry Christmas” or not. That is up to you. This post is actually my first in a series I introduced in my post “How To Do Christian Ministry in Business” that highlights various ways our company attempts to integrate our Christian faith into the business. This post is simply a description of one of these practices.

While I am not telling you which way you should fall, I choose to fall on the side of saying Merry Christmas. I choose to do this as a reminder to myself and others that Christ is to be the central focus of the Christmas season. In doing so, I become more aware of the times and places where it is not said.

Many Businesses Dropping “Merry Christmas”

Many businesses, in an effort not to offend customers, have made the change to “Happy Holidays” in their Christmas (or Holiday) cards, advertising, and other communications. They send Holiday cards and put up Holiday trees. Some companies go as far as telling their employees that they are not allowed to say, “Merry Christmas” to customers. Others will allow it if the customer says it first.

In an effort to take a position on this, I made a decision that our company would not take this route. I do not dictate what any of our employees are to say to our customers, but I do make sure that any official communication from our company says, “Merry Christmas.”

Painting Our Windows

One of the ways we do this is to paint up our showroom windows within a day or two after Thanksgiving. We have done it for years in an effort to get into the Christmas spirit and move our customers that way as well. I have had the same guy painting these windows every year for as long as I can remember.

He does a really good job and is very dependable. Every year, he calls me the day after Thanksgiving and asks if I want the windows painted again. There is very little conversation because we have done it the same way for so long!

The Assumption

Well, the first Christmas after making my decision to turn our business over to God, I was walking through one of the buildings shortly after Thanksgiving and noticed he was busy at work painting the windows. But then I stopped and stared. I suddenly realized he was halfway through the “Happy” in “Happy Holidays!”

I was stunned. Not angry, just surprised. I walked straight over to him and asked why he had chosen to change the wording. He said that he had just been asked by most of his clients that year to change the wording away from Merry Christmas so they would not offend anyone. He just assumed I felt the same way.

The Correction

After I explained my position, he was so grateful! He said it killed him to make the change to “Happy Holidays,” but that he was simply honoring the clients’ wishes. He proceeded to honor my request, going back to “Merry Christmas,” and thanked me for allowing him to do so!

Now, every year he calls me and asks if we want the windows painted again. He then follows right up with, “…and we are still doing ‘Merry Christmas,’ right?”

The Results

So what are the results of this decision? The ACLU has not shown up to force us to remove the signs. No one has sued us for discrimination. No one has complained that they are offended by our painted windows. (Of course, that does not mean no one has been offended, just that no one has spoken up.)

Our employees have made various comments over the years that affirmed this decision. Our window painter was certainly excited about our decision. Finally, in a small way, we have made a statement about where we stand.

I hope this small example encourages you to do something similar. At least, I hope it causes you to think about what you are doing (or not doing) and why!

Originally posted 12/9/11

Do you have an opportunity to take a similar stand?

What obstacles do you have in your mind that are holding you back?

Have you prayed about this?

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  • I’ve always thought this was a rather strange debate. I don’t know anyone that would seriously be offended by a sign that says Merry Christmas. At least not where I live in the South. But yet so many people have started saying Happy Holidays to not offend people. It’s kinda a strange thing.

    • I think someone at a magazine or newspaper thought, “I wonder if we can get people stirred up over nonsense.” A decade later, he has his answer. 🙂

    • You would be surprised, I think. I have never argued with anyone over it, but I know many businesses that make sure to avoid the friction by eliminating “Christmas” from their communications.

      I estimate roughly 60-75% of the greeting cards I receive from vendors, banks, etc. this time of year are “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” cards. It is definitely the minority (of businesses) that send out cards with anything specific about Christmas.

  • Okay, first of all, you’ve given me a great idea for a post–“What About Christians? We Might be Offended…” I assure it won’t be the usual rant against Happy Holidays. I agree with green carpet, red carpet…who cares what color the carpet is? Does the church have its eyes on Jesus? Let me know that answer and I won’t bother about how the church rearranges its furniture.

    Home run on telling the story about you and your sign painter. By the way, I noticed how well he did do ya’ll’s showroom windows. I see why he gets the business he does.

    • The problem is that when Christians are offended, they are silently so. When others are offended, they speak out. This is a generalization, of course, but it is true more often than not.

      Regarding the windows, he does a great job, doesn’t he? That is all free-hand. He draws with a grease pencil first and then paints. I am glad to have him!

  • Russ

    The company that I work for has about 20 manufacturing plants throughout North America.   A few weeks ago, I ordered Christmas cards to be sent to every employee in our company.  The cards carried a religious theme and referred to the birth of the Christ child.  Our company president spent many hours signing each and every card.  Made me proud to work for a company president that is not afraid to associate his name with his faith.  Merry Christmas. 

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  • Russ, that is huge. I am glad to hear that!

    Merry Christmas to you!

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  • Rajeev

    I was Not Aware Much about This Before As i am In India . That Why Peoples Calls Happy Holidays in USA . Now i Understand .

    I Like This Post and really i would Say MERRY CHRISTMAS too and Spread The Word . I Like This

    ” In an effort to take a position on this, I made a decision that our company would not take this route. I do not dictate what any of our employees are to say to our customers, but I do make sure that any official communication from our company says, “Merry Christmas.”
    In My whole village i was the One Who Got Saved . I was The Only One Christian . And Every Year i Did My BEST To Display My Faith before Others . I Put Decoration And Merry Christmas Sign Over My Home . Peoples from Away can See My Single Home in Whole Village . Showing Lightned House and Merry Christmas Message . And Know What is the Reason for This Decoration etc 😉

    • You keep up the good work, Rajeev! Merry Christmas to you!

  • We need to put Christ back in Christmas and back into our everyday living…period. Thanks so much for this story!