When I'm not sure, or when I'm addressing a group, I say, "Happy Holidays."The writer of the original story also called for a balance where there isn't any regarding the usage of "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays."
I don't say this to slight Christmas, but to be polite and sensible. Wishing "Merry Christmas" to someone who doesn't celebrate Christmas is like wishing someone "Happy birthday" when his birthday is six months off --- it's not so much rude as it is weird.
At the same time, however, wishing someone "Happy Holidays" when you have good reason to believe that he celebrates Christmas is also weird.
It comes off as prissy, and, intentionally or not, it carries with it the suggestion that you, the speaker, feel "Christmas" is a word that polite people avoid.
This suggestion, in turn, feeds a fear that modern secular culture is out to remove Christ from the winter holiday season one greeting at a time, if necessary.
I get that. I happen to think the fear is baseless. Observing the Nativity remains the overwhelming reason most Americans celebrate at this time of year, and their freedom to do so is vast. But I see how "Happy Holidays" can sound like a cold dismissal of that observance.
At the same time, I see how "Merry Christmas" as a blanket greeting carries with it the suggestion to the non-Christian that those who don't celebrate Christmas are misfits; oddballs whose strange beliefs don't command even a tip of the verbal cap.
If there's any way to break this absurd logjam in seasonal pleasantries, it lies in each of us making a reassuring effort to use the appropriate greeting with the appropriate people.If Christmas really is that time of year when peace on earth and goodwill toward men ought to reign, how about we see a little bit more of that? Personally, I just wish everyone a Merry Christmas; not meaning to offend, but this is one place where I see an appeal to tradition isn't that far off base.
Don't assume, but don't chicken out, either. And for goodness' sake, don't take offense when none is intended.
My family has received a plethora of Christmas cards from church members, each one with different greetings on them. Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas; some have a nativity, some a snowman, and heaven forbid, some have Santa Claus. Christmas has a lot of trappings associated with it and many, try as we might, we cannot avoid. But steps can be taken in the general direction. There are a lot of things I like about Christmastime, a lot of things I utterly despise.
But if Santa really does plan on riding this year, perhaps he could bring each of us a generous dose of humility, a moderate splash of tolerance, and a smattering of reason and common sense.