Every year some Canadians and a number of Americans engage in a ridiculous rhetorical ritual that recycles righteous arguments about whether people should say to one another Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas. This debate is taken further by businesses who have to decide to wish their customers Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas on their seasonal cards or advertising.

First some facts. Yes, there are several holidays that fall during December including Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice and the newly created secular HumanLight. While they all would like and deserve to be acknowledged and respected, some of those who celebrate these holidays do not want theirs lumped in with the other holidays under one easy-to-use “Happy Holidays” clich√©.

This is not complicated and is easily solved by greeting people on a one-on-one basis using some basic etiquette. If you know someone is a Christian who is celebrating Christmas, you would say to him o0r her ‘Merry Christmas.’ Likewise, you would say ‘Happy Hanukkah’ to a person you know is Jewish, etc. However, this becomes more of an issue when you do not know the person’s beliefs or followings.

Some businesses choose to just have Happy Holidays signs that seem very “Christmas like” but hope that they are being inclusive. This sometimes does not work in their favour and they end up offending those they are trying not to offend. A case in point is when a number of years ago the City of Toronto decided to name the Christmas Tree in Nathan Philips Squared the “Holiday Tree.” This was more offensive to non-Christians because it was not a tree that represented their holiday. The state legislator of the U.S. state of Rhode Island did the right thing not long ago and said “Just call it a Christmas Tree, because that is what it is.” This is simply common sense. You do not hear people calling the Hanukkah Menorah a “Holiday Menorah”, so call it what it is. Listen to what this Jewish Rabi has to say on the topic https://youtu.be/eU9cZL4JWgM

From a small business perspective, you have to decide if you want to follow the political correctness that many large businesses participate in by saying Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas on your correspondence. You may also want to look at some survey and conversion rates from The Wall Street Journal survey of American views on this topic. Keep in mind that it may be better not to publicly greet your customers with any type of holiday greeting if the majority of your customer base does not celebrate a holiday during this time of year. All-inclusive greetings may be less helpful to your business than trying a catch-all phrase.

Note: This blog entry was created by our guest blogger and office space client Ian and may not reflect or be interpreted as the views of Telsec Business Centres Inc.