How do you wish someone an enjoyable holiday season? There is a debate in the United States about whether to say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” Why such a debate? Today we are looking at the idea of being “politically correct” in language.

“Politically correct” means that you choose language that does not offend anyone and that includes everyone. For example, the word “fireman” cannot be used for women, but there are many females who work in this job. The politically correct word is “firefighter” and should be used instead.

Would you say “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” to these people?

Over the holidays, political correctness means saying “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” But is it THAT important? Do Americans care? Will you get in trouble for saying “Merry Christmas” to someone who does not celebrate Christmas? Of course not. Most Americans will be happy that you wished them a happy holiday season, regardless of whether or not they celebrate Christmas, Hannakuh, Kwanza, or any other holiday. “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” simply include all of the holidays, so if you are concerned about leaving anyone out, then it is safer to use these terms. Or, you can jokingly use the other phrase that includes them all: “Happy Christmakwanzakah!”


Are you learning English at CISL San Diego or San Francisco? What are your holidays plans? We suggest getting into the Christmas spirit by doing the following:

Or check out some other suggestions here.

Merry Christmas . . . no, Happy Holidays . . .  Seasons Greetings . . . whatever you want to call it, CISL would like to wish you a safe and happy holiday season.