“Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”? How do you even know what to say anymore?

Every Christmas season comes the awkward period of figuring out how to best wish someone a happy holiday season. It can be incredibly awkward to gleefully say “Merry Christmas” only to receive a halfhearted reply in return and realize the other person doesn’t celebrate Christmas. It can also be awkward to fumble or say nothing when clearly surrounded by Christmas paraphernalia like lights and trees.

With the majority of Kelowna celebrating Christmas, it is not difficult to get into the spirit of things. The Tree of Hope is lit, brightening Central City. The lights are up all around town, with Candy Cane Lane winning best block yet again in my opinion. And the decorations inside stores are putting my small tree to shame. So it’s easy to assume that “Merry Christmas” is an acceptable greeting – but what about those in Kelowna who celebrate another holiday?

At the base level, we need to start moving away from assuming that everyone celebrates Christmas. Yes, the majority of our city does. But for those who don’t, being surrounded by a holiday they don’t celebrate can be isolating, especially if everyone they encounter automatically assumes they are a participant.

From there, we should start honouring the season as a holiday season, not solely as Christmas season. This means changing your language from “Christmas” to “holidays,” and putting in an effort towards not assuming the traditions of another.

No one is going to get mad at you for saying “Merry Christmas.” The sentiment behind the holiday greeting is just the same as saying “happy holidays,” and I’m sure everyone appreciates a little kindness, especially this time of year. But it doesn’t hurt to start moving away from the hegemonic Christian narrative, and to open up our culture to those who may celebrate Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or another winter holiday.

So lets start changing our narrative. Practice saying “happy holidays,” or “season’s greetings.” Make your own holiday greeting; personalize it for each person you say it to, if you’re really into wishing people well. Pass along some kindness, along with some acceptance and open mindedness.