How to Use Your Holiday Greeting and Still Be Politically Correct

A Christmas tree in the United States.
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Every year I’m concerned that I’ll use the wrong phrase to the wrong person in December.

In working through what is appropriate and what is PC BS, I’ve come up with the following guidelines.

For office parties, use “Holiday Party.”

Unless the business has a religious base, your holiday party will be celebrating all religious and ethnic holidays in December.

Your colleagues might be quite diverse. Any holiday after Thanksgiving in the US, and before January 1, qualifies to be celebrated in the Holiday Party.

It’s okay to greet people with your religious phrase.

It is perfectly okay to greet someone with your preference. If you are an atheist or agnostic, feel free to run with Happy Holidays or a simple, “Have a Good Day.”

Christians, go with the old standby Merry Christmas. If you do it with a smile, no one’s going to think you’re persecuting or witnessing.

Jews can use Happy Hanukkah until the end of Hanukkah. If it’s a early enough, you can flip to Happy Holidays after it’s over. Or go with Happy New Year.

African-Americans who celebrate the new cultural holiday of Kwanzaa can wish others a Happy Kwanzaa.

A woman lights kinara candles on a table decor...
Image via Wikipedia

You can greet people with their religious phrase.

I put an ad hoc poll on Facebook and Twitter to get some ideas of proper holiday greetings. The responses I received lean toward using greetings based on honesty. Wishing someone happy Kwanzaa just because they’re black is either foolish or nasty.

But if you know someone celebrates their African heritage during Kwanzaa, wish them a Happy Kwanzaa. Have a Jewish friend? Wish them a Happy Hanukkah. Make sure you know when Hanukkah is, though. (This year Hanukkah is December 1-8.)

And if you aren’t sure, ask someone if they will be celebrating this season. But be prepared for curious answers. I asked a Jewish friend yesterday, “Will you be celebrating tonight?” She told me that Hanukkah starts on December 3 . (This year it’s December 1!)

You can greet people with the appropriate phrase for the day.

Today (or last night at dusk) starts Hanukkah. For the next eight days you can wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah.

On December 24 and 25th, switch to Merry Christmas. And on December 26, go with Happy Kwanzaa.

It couldn’t hurt to filter in a Happy New Year occasionally.

Hanukkah Dreidels
Image by drurydrama (Len Radin) via Flickr

Even if you don’t celebrate a particular holiday, you still live through it.

Judaism celebrates Hanukkah for eight days, often in December with the occasional jump into November (like 2013). Christians have their big celebration on December 25, every year. And Kwanzaa is celebrated December 26 through January 1. Atheists and agnostics enjoy a relaxing day or two off at the end of December.

All these days exist. If you’re a white Irish bloke, December 26 through January 1 still exists for you even if you don’t call it Kwanzaa.

If someone wishes you a Happy Hanukkah and you’re Christian, roll with it. You just got an extra 8 days of well wishes.


You’ve got a wide range of greetings from which to choose. Mix ’em up. Or stick with one. Be honest and sincere. Regardless of which you pick, it’s a cheery month!

Did I miss anything? Oh yeah, today starts Hanukkah – Happy Hanukkah!

Anything else? Let me know in the comments.

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