the weblog of Alan Knox

Replay: Did she just say, “Happy Holidays”?

Posted by on Dec 8, 2012 in discipleship | 5 comments

Replay: Did she just say, “Happy Holidays”?

Last year, just before Christmas, I published a post called, “Did she just say Happy Holidays?” Around this time of year, the wars of words starts between those who say “Merry Christmas” and those who say “Happy Holidays” with apparently very little middle ground. So many Christians get offended when someone says, “Happy Holidays.” I wonder if there’s not a better way to respond…


Did she just say Happy Holidays?

Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! Fröhliche Weihnachten! Joyeux Noël! Buon Natale! Feliz Natal! Mele Kalikimaka!

What!?!? Did she just say, “Happy Holidays”? That just won’t do…

Ok… so, just to be clear, I tell people, “Merry Christmas.” But, I’m not upset or offended when someone says, “Happy Holidays.” In fact, I do not assume that someone is a nonChristian if that person says, “Happy Holidays.”

What would happen if Christians actually talked with (and listened to) people talk about how THEY celebrated the “holidays” instead of responding in more negative ways?

I could imagine a conversation kinda like this…


“Happy Holidays,” she said as she handed me the receipt.

“Thank you,” I said with a smile. The story was almost empty, and there was no one in line behind me, so I continued, “Which holiday or holidays are you celebrating?”

She seemed a little surprised, but I stopped and made sure she could tell that I was truly interested in what she would say.

“ummm… What do you mean?” she answered with a question, obviously a little unsure of my intent.

“Well, different people celebrate this time of year for different reasons: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Years. Some people just enjoy this time of year by taking a break from work or school and spending time with family. Others recognize the change of seasons or the winter solstice. What are you celebrating during the holidays?”

She stopped for a moment, and looked at me funny again. “You know, no one has ever asked me that before. My family got together for Thanksgiving, and we have several different Christmas traditions…” She told me about some of her family’s plans including travel and parties.

For some reason, I’m always surprised, but I know that people love to talk about things that they care about, especially to someone who is really listening. So, I listened, and made a couple of comments about corresponding traditions or places that I’d been before.

As she stopped talking about herself and her family, I thanked her for telling me about her holiday plans, and started to turn away out of the store.

“What about you?” she asked. “What are you doing for the holidays?”

I turned back toward her and smile. I don’t know if she was as interested in hearing my reasons to celebrate or not, but she had asked. So…


The way I see it, this kind of encounter – any time of year – must be preceded by the following:

1) An earnest concern for the other person and a desire to hear what the other person has to say. (In other words, don’t ask the other person about her beliefs ONLY so that you can share your own.)

2) A willingness to walk away without sharing your own beliefs/plans/whatever if the person does not ask.

So, what about you? Have you ever had an interesting conversation with someone because you reacted in a way that showed you genuinely cared about them (especially when your response was different than what they may have expected from Christians)?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 12-8-2012

    Wow, great post. One thing my career as an insurance agent has taught me is that people need to know you genuinely care about them before they will open up to you. If you are not genuine in your interest, they can spot that a mile away, so you need to be open, honest and caring, even if that leaves you a bit vulnerable, and it will.

    Thanks Alan for this timely thought.

  2. 12-8-2012

    It is high time we stopped being so militant and started being more gracious. We are not supposed to be aggressive salespeople out to close a deal – we are to spread/share/preach…LIVE…the Gospel and not force a sale on it. How can we expect anyone to listen to what we have to say when we either won’t listen to them or, at best, patronize (in some condescending way) what they do have to say?

    When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, He answered all her questions even though each one changed the subject from the previous one. He gave her a level of acknowledgment which she likely had not received from anyone else – especially not from a Jew (and a rabbi, no less). Did that have an impact? I believe it did.

    Besides, when did it become our job to force people to do or say something which has no impact on their eternity, but only makes us feel better?

    Pa-leez – let’s get this right.

    Great post, as always, Alan. I am glad I “liked” Assembling of the Church and feel privileged to have you on my friends list.

  3. 12-8-2012

    Kevin and John,

    Thank you for the comments. I’m glad that people are thinking about this topic.


  4. 12-9-2012


    “Happy Holidays” means Christmas (also including the 12 days of), New Year’s, and I think Thanksgiving. It is a term that not only has been used my entire life, but I’ve heard it in old movies where the obvious reference was to multiple holidays that Christians celebrated this time of year. It was never intended to replace Christmas or to include holidays of other religions.

    What’s the reason for being offended by the term? Who started the idea that people who use the term are against or offended by Christmas anyway?

  5. 12-11-2012


    I don’t know how the offense started, but around where I live, some Christians get very offended when someone says, “Happy Holidays,” instead of, “Merry Christmas.”