In Defense of Using "Happy Holidays" at the Office

Tyler S. Hatcher
9 Dec

Why "Happy Holidays?"

As the holiday season approaches, a decade-old debate will begin again in earnest. In recent years there has been a push towards the more inclusive greeting “Happy Holidays” as opposed to the Christian-centric “Merry Christmas.” The reason for this is simple: not everyone celebrates Christmas. Many religions and cultures also have holidays of their own during this time of year. Unless someone is wearing religious clothing or iconography, it’s usually impossible to discern what their personal beliefs might be.  


There has been some steady push back against this effort to be more inclusive of other religious beliefs beyond Christianity. While millions of Americans do identify as Christian and celebrate Christmas, there are also millions of Americans who belong to a variety of faiths and cultural backgrounds. When we’re out in public or in the workplace, it’s best to not assume that everyone’s religious beliefs mirror your own. 

Religion holds a special place in many people’s lives, and we’re extremely protective over our deeply held personal beliefs and traditions. Businesses should be mindful of this when planning their holiday celebrations. A Christmas-centric holiday party may seem like an innocent enough event, but employees of different faiths can feel alienated if their beliefs aren’t also represented. Actively take steps to increase inclusiveness so that no employee feels othered for their religious beliefs. 

With that being said, being inclusive doesn’t mean not celebrating the holidays at all! It just means being mindful of the fact that others within your place of work may celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, the winter solstice, Bodhi Day, or nothing at all. For this reason consider using season-centric decorations, rather than anything associated with one particular holiday. On the other hand, if your office is the type that goes all out, consider setting up displays of all kinds so that each of your employees feel represented in the festivities. 

Moving back to the phrase “Happy Holidays,” it’s the simplest way you can wish someone will without assuming they follow a specific faith or celebrate the same holiday as you. It also makes the holiday season more inclusive of all types of faiths and religions. It’s the polite thing to do, and shows respect for beliefs that might be different from your own. 

That being said, your holiday party doesn’t have to be a dull affair without any Christmas music, decorations, or references to Santa. Many people in your office might celebrate Christmas, and many might not. But the best way to address our differences is to embrace them! Here are some fun  ways to incorporate multiple holidays into your end of the year celebrations. 

Making the Holidays More Inclusive

  • Make your holiday celebration a potluck! Ask everyone to cook and bring in a traditional family holiday recipe to share with the rest of the office. This gives employees a chance to show off their cooking skills and their culture. Holiday traditions alone can vary drastically from culture to culture, and the same goes for their food! 
  • Make the ultimate holiday playlist. Ask employees to send in their favorite holiday song, whatever that holiday might be, and add it to the night’s soundtrack. It’s a personal touch that adds a bit of inclusive flair to your celebration. 
  • Light the Christmas tree — and the menorah and kinara. Set up decorations for all the major holidays happening around this time of year! Representation is the best type of inclusion. Encourage the sharing of holiday traditions, beliefs, and games. Use this time as a way to build connections and celebrate both our similarities and differences. 

When you’re creating a company culture, the most important thing to remember is that every single employee is also a person with their own history, traditions, and personal beliefs. Respecting that individuality and the differences we may have is the key to fostering a truly diverse company culture. In order to recruit and retain underrepresented talent, candidates and employees need to feel welcome and safe to express themselves within the workplace. 

For many, this time of year is one of reflection, celebration, and togetherness. In that same spirit, we make one final case for using “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas. Changing your language to be inclusive of someone’s beliefs, rather than assuming they share yours, is an effortless and simple action that requires little effort on your part. To your coworker, who may perhaps belong to a number of different faiths or none at all, this is a simple act of kindness that makes them feel included and recognized. 

No matter what holiday you celebrate, I think we can all get behind simple acts of kindness. In the spirit of the holidays, be mindful of the variety of the religions, beliefs, and cultures celebrating this season. 

Be kind, be inclusive, and, most importantly: Happy Holidays from all of us at Joonko! 


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