“Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”?

With Halloween being over, the new focus of commercials, paper ads, stores, etc. is now the wonderful holiday that is Christmas. I know you’re thinking “what happened to Thanksgiving?”. I ask myself that question every year. Around Christmastime everyone seems to be in the best mood possible. Everyone is constantly smiling, baking cookies, throwing Christmas parties, and singing their hearts out to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas”. Christmas is a very cheerful time.


As you notice I keep using the word “Christmas” when speaking about the upcoming holiday. This is something that companies and organizations try to stay away from these days. The reason for that is contextual communication ethics, an approach to communication ethics that recognizes variations in culture, persons, and communication settings. When companies utilize contextual communication ethics, they are considering each individual person that benefits from their company and they are also protecting themselves. The perfect example that is going to be very apparent soon is saying “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas”. Have you noticed over the years that more and more businesses stray away from saying “merry Christmas”? This is because in America diversity of culture is growing rapidly. Saying “merry Christmas” to someone that celebrates another holiday such as Kwanzaa or Hanukkah could easily that person. So companies have began changing the way that they celebrate the holiday.

Now on advertisements like commercials and print ads, “happy holidays” is used to avoid alienating people that do not celebrate Christmas. A few years ago, many Americans were very upset that they barely heard “merry Christmas” while shopping anymore. Christians workers, especially, were angry that the company they worked for enforced the new “happy holidays” saying. A recent dispute that relates to “happy holidays” is the red Starbucks catastrophe that occurred last year. Basically, Christians felt that Starbucks changed their holiday cup design to be less-Christian because the cups no longer said “merry Christmas”, (an example of Starbucks utilizing contextual communication ethics). This controversy turned into one of the biggest issues of 2015. Recently, Starbucks released their holiday cups and they are now green. People are now even more outraged. There is no winning with Starbucks’ customers apparently.


However, besides the Starbucks fiasco, as the years go on it is becoming more acceptable to say “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas”. Overall, companies see this as a way to include various types of people that come from various backgrounds and cultures. Whether its “happy holidays” or “merry Christmas”, I just hope everyone watches Home Alone, spends time with their family, and eats a great big feast.


– Jordan S