Happy Holidays – Are We Being Logical or Too Sensitive?

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Guys, some people are going to want you to say “Happy Holiday” this year instead of “Merry Christmas.”

I’m not talking about what you say to your family or people you know personally, I’m talking about with the public. Obviously, you’re not going to walk into Catholic mass on Christmas Eve and be expected to say “Happy Holidays.”

No, you know the cases I mean – the mundane cases. The cashier at Target, or the writing on a Starbuck’s cup. Maybe a politician or two. The politically correct thing these days is to never say “Merry Christmas.” Now, you must say, “Happy Holidays.”

People have many reactions to this, including:

  • Agreeing that this is the right thing to do.
  • Get angry that we’re “no longer allowed” to say Merry Christmas.
  • Think both other parties are being stupid.

There’s a simple way to figure out the most logical place to stand on this that makes it utterly uncontroversial… but you will need to decide where your values lie.

We’ll start with a boolean equation:

It matters which one people say. It does NOT matter which one people say

Here’s the fun thing about logic: it can never actually tell you what to think.

It can’t even tell you the most logical thing to think. Even when we think we’ve found absolutely the most logical thing to do, it’s based on some shared, some unquestioned value. In this case, by “value,” I mean a set of principles and ethics.

So, when we’re solving a logical problem about whether we should save the five strangers or the one person you love, those equations are based on an unstated presumption: that we value human life and we value it being preserved as much as possible. That’s what makes the question worth solving in the first place.

So what I’m saying is — logic can’t tell you what the most logical option is, because it can’t tell you what you should value. But, it can tell you what’s the most logical course of action based on the things you value.

So, you choose what you value, and then plugin the rest.


Option 1: It matters which one you say.

Ok, so we’ve decided it does matter which one people say. Why does it matter?

Let’s try to articulate what other underlying values might be buried beneath this one:

Premise 1:
What we say at the grocery store (and like situations) either respects or disrespects the listener’s religious beliefs.
Premise 2:
We should respect your listener’s religious beliefs and avoid disrespecting them.
Conclusion: Your religiously-related benevolent directives matter.

You might have similar reasons, or different reasons – that was just an example. The fact remains: in this section, we feel that the distinction matters. So, if it matters, we ought to resolve which one is the best thing to say. How do we do that… logically.

Premise 1:
We should avoid disrespecting a person’s religion by acting like it doesn’t matter.
Premise 2:
“Happy Holidays” avoids acting like any potential listener’s religion doesn’t matter.
Premise 3:
“Merry Christmas” does not avoid acting like any potential listener’s religion doesn’t matter.
Conclusion: You should say “Happy Holidays,” AND you should not say “Merry Christmas.”


Option 2: It doesn’t matter which one you say.

Premise 1:
Somebody said “Merry Christmas.”
Premise 2:
It doesn’t matter if the speaker says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”
Conclusion: You have no reason to be annoyed.

Premise 1:
Somebody said “Happy Holidays.”
Premise 2:
It doesn’t matter if the speaker says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”
Conclusion: You have no reason to be annoyed.

Solution: if it matters what we say, you should say “Happy Holidays.” If it doesn’t matter, then who cares. Don’t worry yourself over it.

If you are annoyed over it, it means either:

  • It actually does matter.
  • You’re being illogical.

Author: A. Primate

Mammal. Organizes itself into complex social hierarchies. Very particular about objects - even those that can't be eaten or used for shelter. Seemingly aware of itself as separate from the environment.

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